President Donald Trump held a conference call with leaders of twelve American sports leagues on Saturday and said he was optimistic the NFL could start its season on time and that fans could be back into stadiums and arenas by August or September.
“I want fans back whenever we’re ready- as soon as we can. I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later,” Trump said from the White House during a coronavirus briefing. “We’re going to see where we are. August would be great. And the fans want to be back too.”
Trump also suggested that leagues lobby together to reinstate the entertainment expense tax deduction, which was eliminated with the tax overhaul legislation of 2017. The rule allowed for individuals to deduct entertainment expenses, such as ticket costs or concession spending, which Trump said will incentivize people to get back out to stadiums and other public venues.
Prior to the tax overhaul, employers could deduct 50 percent of the cost of entertainment-related meals, 50 percent of the face value of a ticket and 100 percent of meals provided to workers for the employer’s convenience.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, one of the attendees on the call, said that although sports were the first public ventures to be shut down, they are also interested in being the first to reopen once they receive the all clear from public health officials, according to ESPN.
Others were not as optimistic as the president about the NFL returning to the field by then. “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said of the league’s return during a Saturday press conference.
Construction on Los Angeles’ Sofi Stadium continues, according to the LA Times, but completion by the start of the NFL stadium isn’t guaranteed, the Ram’s chief operating officer said.
The President opened the call by thanking the sports leagues for the work being done by many teams and players to care for their communities, workforces, and fan base, according to a White House pool report. The commissioners thanked Trump for his leadership and interest in sports, and he encouraged them to continue their support for citizens.
Sports commissioners on the call included the NHL’s Gary Bettman, WNBA’s Cathy Engelbert, MLS’s Don Garber, NFL’s Roger Goodell, MLB’s Rob Manfred, Vince McMahon, President of the WWE, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, the NBA’s Adam Silver, UFC’s Dana White, IndyCar’s Roger Penske, the LPGA’s Michael Whan, and Drew Fleming, President of the Breeders’ Cup.