White House discusses re-opening plan with sports leagues

Chief medical officers from major sports leagues participated in a call Tuesday with Seema Verma, who is a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and administrator for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The call, according to a White House official, was to go over how sports plays a role in President Donald Trump’s plan for opening up America amid the coronavirus pandemic. Verma also updated league medical officials on the latest testing available and encouraged them to follow guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among those representing the various sports leagues were officials from Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, WNBA, NHL, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, NCAA, College Football Playoff, National Women’s Soccer League, NASCAR, PGA of America, Masters Tournament, United States Tennis Association, as well as a few other organizations.

The PGA Tour was among the first professional sports leagues to announce an intention to return to play, with plans to open the revised schedule on June 8 with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The first four tournaments of the new schedule will be played without fans in attendance, and the PGA Tour has acknowledged the need for safety precautions that will have to be implemented at the events.

Verma emphasized to the league officials the importance of finding innovative ways to allow sports while keeping the athletes, coaches, staff and fans safe. She also emphasized the President’s commitment to supporting the efforts to re-open in a way that is consistent with public health data.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby represented the CFP on the call, which he said lasted over an hour, and said that Dr. Brian Hainline was on for the NCAA.

“They just told us what they knew, and told us they were anxious to help in any way they could,” Bowlsby said. “We learned that there were likely going to be a lot more tests available, both the antibody tests and point of contact tests, which was a good thing for all of the pro guys and colleges.

“They said the number of tests was going to go up dramatically in the coming months,” Bowlsby added when asked if he was told that schools would be able to test every player and coach. “They thought we were going to have the necessary tests to do what we needed to do.”

Bowlsby said there are still “too many unknowns” to determine when the season might start.

“Getting the best information from the most authoritative source is always a good thing,” he said.

ESPN’s Heather Dinich contributed to this report.

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