The ubiquitous medical expert offered his comments about sports during an interview with Peter Hamby on Snapchat. (Check out the full interview above. Followup segments of the wide-ranging conversation are slated to appear on the social network on Thursday and Friday.)
“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said of baseball and football being phased back in. He didn’t specifically address other sports, like pro basketball and hockey, which are also exploring ways to salvage their seasons. Sports has been a prism through which millions of people have experienced the onset of COVID-19, with the suspension of the NBA season in mid-March a key milestone.
In Fauci’s vision, “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well surveilled, have them tested every week. And make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”
Many different options for bringing sports back have been floated by league sources in recent weeks, but nothing official has been approved by medical experts or government officials. Baseball could be played in designated areas in Arizona and/or Florida, according to one proposal. A “bubble” could be created in Las Vegas or the Bahamas, where the NBA regular season or playoffs could unfold safely.
The multi-billion-dollar business of football, meanwhile, is looming large for TV networks, colleges and pro teams. President Donald Trump convened a conference call recently with sports commissioners, pledging to ensure the NFL season gets started on schedule with fans in the stands. Trump announced several league commissioners would be part of the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups.
Skeptics of sports returning point to survey data indicating fans’ strong reluctance to return to stadiums or arenas before a vaccine or reliable treatment are developed for the coronavirus. Athletes, too, have expressed doubt about the viability of playing in empty venues, though baseball and basketball are slowly returning in parts of Asia.
“People say, ‘Well, you can’t play without spectators,'” Fauci said. “Well, I think you’d get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game. Particularly me, I mean, I’m living in Washington. We have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.”