While the nation continues to deal with the evolving spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, governors, sports commissioners and university leadership personnel are working on a plan for the return of sports, albeit in a possibly different capacity than normal.
“Our priority is the well-being of Gator student-athletes, staff and fans, and we are working toward the day when we can once again engage with those groups safely on campus,” said Florida Gators Athletic Director Scott Stricklin in a statement to GatorBait Magazine on Thursday.
The State of Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis has reopened with more lax terms than some other states. As such the possibility of sports being played in The Sunshine State before the 2021 calendar year looks higher than ever. And now, according to DeSantis, the state could also play temporary home to teams from other states as well.
While there are federal restrictions in place, they pertain more so to the medial side of things. When it comes to more everyday life restrictions, all 50 states are making independent decisions based on their own population. The State of Arizona, for example, is open to sports teams returning but without fans.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey 'announced 'Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, the NFL, MLS are able to participate and play in the state of Arizona after May 15.’ Under some of baseball's possible plans, a portion of teams and possibly all would be based in the Phoenix area, but the first preference of late is to play in empty regular-season ballparks.
‘Of course, this would be with CDC guidelines, and protecting the public health," the Republican said. "We have had discussions with leaders of some of these leagues and they all know they are welcome to operate, play and perform in the state of Arizona.’”
But while Arizona and Florida are opening stadiums back up, even if only to teams, other states, like the hard-hit California, is putting the discussion of sports on the back burner. California and the Pacific Northwest were the first hotspots for COVID-19 in the United States and the large population means Gov. Gavin Newson has a long road to recovery. With that in mind, Newson—a huge sports fan in his own right—doesn’t see any league’s return in his state happening anytime soon.
“It’s difficult to imagine a stadium that’s filled until we have immunity and until we have a vaccine,” Newsom announced the afternoon before the NFL revealed the 2020 schedule.
“There are conditions that persist in this state and this nation that make re-opening very, very challenging…it’s difficult for me to imagine what the league and, broadly, leagues, do when one or two of their key personnel or players have tested positive,” Newsom said. “Do they quarantine the rest of the team? If an offensive lineman is practicing with a defensive lineman, and they have tested positive, what happens to the rest of the line? What happens to the game coming up the next weekend?
“It’s inconceivable to me that that’s not a likely scenario.”
If California and likely other states as well discontinue sports in any capacity for the remainder of the calendar year, teams will be looking for other landing spots if there’s any hope of competing with others in their league. Continuing with California as an example, the West Coast state boast three NFL teams (Los Angeles Chargers, the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers), four NBA teams (Golden State Warriors, the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings) and five MLB teams (Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants). The MLB would open the soonest, planning a July 4 return date.
Those teams will need somewhere to play. DeSantis would like to invite them to Florida.
On FoxNews this week, Desantis said, “I’ve already spoke with some of our colleges, like the University of Florida. They got a great football stadium, the Swamp, that’s not used on Sundays. So if an NFL team needs a place to land, we could work that out, too.”
GatorBait reached out to Stricklin for more clarification on DeSantis’ comments and the A.D. outlined an invitation for teams of all three big professional leagues.
Said Stricklin, “Following Governor DeSantis’ comment yesterday inviting other pro teams to participate in our state, I reached out to remind him that UF and Gainesville have world class health care facilities, an iconic football stadium, a state-of-the-art basketball arena and a brand-new baseball ballpark within two hours of cities with professional franchises. We’ve been receiving excellent guidance from our state and health care officials, and when those groups believe it is safe to host college and pro sporting events in Florida, we will be prepared to do so.”