President Hosts Call with NFL, other Sports Commissioners to Discuss Return Date

On Saturday, President Trump held a conference call with a dozen commissioners of the major American professional sports leagues. In the call, Trump said that he believes the NFL should start on time for the 2020-21 season. He also said he hopes to have fans back in arenas for live events by August or September.

Most collegiate and professional sports around the globe have been shut down since the middle of March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The events draw large crowds, obviously making social distancing impossible. The NBA was the first league to completely cease operations on March 11, after two players from the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA shutdown caused a cascade in which almost every sports league halted their operations as well.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter, who broke the story for ESPN:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver told those on the call that the leagues were the first to shut down and that they would love to lead the way in starting the economy once there was an “all clear” from public health officials, sources familiar with the call told ESPN.

The NBA was the first league to suspend play, on March 11.

Trump also raised the idea of the leagues working together to lobby for tax incentives that used to exist for entertainment expenses, such as the ability to deduct concessions and tickets from taxes, sources said. That would be a way for leagues to jump-start fans’ ability to return to stadiums in a difficult economy.

There remains guarded optimism that the NFL and college football seasons could resume as normal, although many contingencies have been planned. Those include starting a week, a month, or even an academic quarter late. Commissioners of the Power Five conferences in the NCAA have discussed having truncated seasons in which teams only play other teams in their conferences, for an eight- or nine-week schedule.

The NBA finds itself in a different boat. The 2019-20 season was nearing its end, and teams were making their push for playoff seedings when the NBA shut it all down. According to CBS Sports, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has considered several possibilities for resuming the season:

Silver has tried to stay optimistic about the chances of the league pressing play again on this current season, and the NBA has reportedly been ‘very determined’ to crown a champion for the 2019-20 season. There have been talks of a truncated playoff format, with all games taking place in Las Vegas as a way to limit the amount of travel, and thus slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There’s a lot of hoops to clear and questions to answer to make that a possibility, but if this season could be salvaged in some way, the NBA would try it.

There’s also a report that the NBA is prepping for the possible cancellation of the season altogether, if it looks like there’s no safe way for games to resume. This doesn’t mean that the season will be canceled, but that the league is preparing for all possible outcomes as the spread of the coronavirus continues to worsen across the United States. The league has billions of dollars on the line, and canceling the remainder of the season isn’t ideal, but if there’s no way to continue playing games in the next couple months, then chances of not having a 2020 NBA champion will grow.

The situation remains very fluid, with too many variables to know when the sports world will return to normal.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at Jeff hosts a podcast at You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.