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The Return of Sports?

How should sports return? The conversations have begun. If nothing else the return of sports will be an important milestone. As such, it's an important political issue. As with everything related to the pandemic - there is no correct policy. It's all about assessing the relative costs and benefits of different policies. This is especially difficult because the available data may not have any real value (different testing rates, different reporting rules, fraud, etc...) .

When the NBA announced it would suspend play on March 11 due to the growing concerns of the coronavirus pandemic, it set off a chain of reactions which caused several other sports leagues to postpone or cancel events. At this point, it's still unclear when play will resume, though on Saturday afternoon, leading sports figures from around the sports world did hold a conference call with President Donald Trump. 
Trump told the commissioners that he hopes to have fans back in arenas and stadiums by the late summer or early fall, according to Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. That proclamation will likely be taken with a grain of salt, however, as it's still far too early to know how the virus will still be affecting us by that time. 
"They want to get back," Trump said of the sports leagues during his press briefing later on Saturday. "They've got to get back. They can't do this. Their sports weren't designed for it. The whole concept of our nation wasn't designed for it. We have to get back. We want to get back soon."

This is little more than idle speculation but I see an opportunity for MLB to create some win-win programming. Baseball has a lot of distancing built into the game and there appears to be sufficient testing available to test asymptomatic players.

How about some exhibitions played without fans? The idea of NBA games without fans was a point of conversation in mid March (seems like a different era). Baseball could create exhibition contests of high profile and marketable players. If there is concern about profiteering then the league and broadcasters could donate any proceeds to Covid 19 relief efforts.

It's a win-win because MLB could feature its stars on a national level and the return of sports would be a huge positive for the public. This kind of approach could also be a "baby step" towards getting back to normal.


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