The coronavirus pandemic has led to a shutdown of sports worldwide, but the NFL has been able to sidestep any major postponements or cancellations by virtue of its regular season not being scheduled to get underway until September. While that’s currently four months away, the COVID-19 outbreak has yet to reach its crescendo, and the league is doing all it can to avoid cancelling the 2020 NFL Draft — as some owners consider virtual drafting from quarantine.
The outlook for professional football beginning on time looks bleak on its face. However, on an April 4 conference call with major league sports commissioners, President Donald Trump reportedly told Roger Goodell he believes the NFL should kick off on time in September, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Trump also foresees fans being able to attend stadiums as early as August, per ESPN’s report on the call. The report did not include on what basis the projections are being made. Medical experts continue to warn against public gatherings, and mandatory shelter-in-place orders are in effect around the country.
Soon after the report of Trump’s remarks surfaced, California governor Gavin Newsom told NBC News he doesn’t believe sports leagues will be able to start up with full stadiums by September.
NFL teams have been banned indefinitely from beginning any sort of offseason conditioning. Until players are allowed to physically prep for the season — i.e., minicamp, training camp, etc. — there remains risk of a delayed start for the NFL, although they’ve not yet been forced to address the possibility. The NFL’s chief medical officer recently laid out , and it centers around widespread availability of rapid-result testing.
Goodell has a luxury the MLB, NBA, MLS, PGA, NHL and other major sports leagues didn’t, namely time and the chance to make changes before his league risks delay, but these are unprecedented times. As the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control work feverishly to flatten the curve and develop a long-term solution, it’s anyone’s guess when live sports will become a reality.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was the first to pull the plug on his league due to COVID-19, and while he’s all-in on reinstating the season, he reportedly won’t do so until the “all clear” is given from medical experts.