(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump told sports commissioners on Saturday he hoped that their leagues and competitions, which have been suspended by the coronavirus outbreak, would soon be back in action.
At a later White House briefing, Trump said commissioners from the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer were among those on the call.
“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said at the briefing. “Whenever we are ready. As soon as we can, obviously.”
The NBA and NHL halted their seasons in March with baseball and MLS delaying the start of their seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United States has the world’s highest number of known cases of COVID-19, the flu-like respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 306,000 people have tested positive in the United States and over 8,300 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could be killed in the pandemic, even if sweeping orders to stay home are followed.
“The fans want to be back, too,” added Trump. “They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”
The NFL hopes to start its season in September, but California Governor Gavin Newsom said that might not be possible.
“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said at a briefing.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford