Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump will be participating in a conference call with some prominent sports figures. He will be meeting with the heads of various leagues, including Roger Goodell of the NFL, Dana White of the UFC, and Vince McMahon of WWE. The purpose of the call was not initially provided, but the expectation is that the COVID-19 outbreak and its effect on sports will be the topic.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NCAA will not be represented on the phone call. The other major leagues, however, will be present to discuss the current situation. Along with Goodell, Adam Silver (NBA), Robert Manfred (MLB), and Gary Bettman (NHL) will be present. They will also be joined by Cathy Engelbert (WNBA), Jay Monahan (PGA Tour), Don Garber (MLS) and either John Middlebrook or Jim France (NASCAR).
The coronavirus has directly impacted all major sports leagues over the past month. The NBA and WNBA both suspended operations on March 11, as did the NHL. The UFC and MLB both postponed several events while WWE moved all major events to the Performance Center in Orlando. Similarly, NASCAR has postponed all races until early May while shifting the focus to the online video game "iRacing" and the newly-formed Pro Invitational Series.
The NFL has not made any adjustments to the upcoming 2020 season but has altered several key offseason events. Pro days for the potential draft picks have been canceled, the NFL Draft celebration in Las Vegas will no longer have fan events, and the actual draft is expected to be held in a virtual setting.
There were several questions about the purpose of the meeting posed on Twitter, including many users that believed Trump would be telling the various leagues to get back into action and hold their events without fans. However, Warren Shaw of Shaw Sports had a different opinion. He expects this to be more of a "check-in" call that discusses how the stoppage has affected every league and all of their employees.
The NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, told NFL Media that widespread testing would have to be available before the league could contemplate playing a full 16-game schedule. The league plans on starting on time, but Sills cautioned against accepting that outcome.
"I would say that's everyone's hope, that we are in a position to do that," Sills said, per Judy Battista. "But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now. We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that is one potential outcome that we will be back fully in business playing games as normal in front of fans on schedule. But it's certainly not the only outcome.
"And I think what was implied there was to say we are not at a point where we are saying that is absolutely not going to happen so we should continue our planning and preparations as if we're going to be able to do that," Sills continued. "But obviously we're going to have to evaluate that along the way. And follow what the recommendations are from public health officials and from our infectious disease experts and others."
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