Donald Trump Says Sports Will Return as 'Made for TV' Under New Guidelines, with Games Played Behind Closed Doors

The major U.S. sports leagues will resume behind closed doors, with fans barred from stadiums and arenas until the country has overcome the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said on Thursday.

The NBA, NHL, and MLS have been suspended for over a month, while the start of the MLB regular season was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The NFL remains confident its campaign will kick off as scheduled on September 10, though it is unclear whether it will do so with fans in the stadiums or behind closed doors.

In his daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Trump suggested the latter was a far likelier option and that fans will be then gradually allowed into venues over the coming months.

"Many [sports] will be starting without the fans, so it will be made for television, the good old days, made for television," the president said. "And it will go that way, and maybe the fans will start coming in. Maybe they will be separated by two seats. and then ultimately we want to have packed arenas when the virus is gone. When the virus is gone, we want to have packed arenas and we are going to be back to enjoying sports the way they are supposed to be."

Earlier this week, Trump said it was time for the major leagues to resume as soon as possible as he was "tired of watching baseball games that are 14-years old," but on Thursday he stopped short of indicating when sports may be allowed to return.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously indicated every option was on the table in terms of resuming the season, which could potentially include shortening the playoff or allowing the season to run well into the summer.

The MLB, meanwhile, is reportedly considering plans to resume proceedings as early as next month. Last week, ESPN reported the MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) had received the support of high-ranking federal public health officials after floating the prospect of getting the regular season underway next month behind closed doors.

The proposal being considered by the MLB would involve all 30 franchises playing games at Chase Field, the home of Arizona Diamondbacks, in Phoenix and at other ballparks in the Phoenix area

In the same media briefing on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told reporters it was conceivable sporting events and large gatherings could be allowed to resume in the final stage of a three-phase guidelines to restart the economy the Trump administration set out on Thursday.

"I think we'll be able to have sports events in that phase where you actually have participants there," he said. "I'm not sure you're going to be able to do that uniformly and evenly."

On Wednesday, Fauci, a prominent member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, suggested professional sports could only resume behind closed doors at first.

"Nobody comes to the stadium," he told Snapchat's Good Luck America host Peter Hamby. "Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. ... Have them tested every single week and make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out."

As of Friday morning, over 671,400 cases have been reported in the U.S., by far the highest toll in the world. Almost 33,300 deaths have been recorded in the U.S. and more than 52,700 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

Over 145,000 people have died globally since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There have been more than 2.1 million confirmed cases globally.

MLB, Dodger Stadium
An empty Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on the eve what would have been Major League Baseball's opening day on March 25. The MLB has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Harry How/Getty