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Gov. Newsom doesn’t see packed stadiums for sporting events anytime soon

The NFL is releasing its 2020 schedule Thursday night. The Rams put single-game suites on sale for their new stadium Thursday morning. Major League Baseball would like teams to play in their home ballparks at some point this summer.

This return to normality was forcefully challenged by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. Hours after the president of the New York Yankees talked about how fans would return to his stadium, Newsom said he did not envision fans packing any of the stadiums in his state in the months ahead.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine a stadium that’s filled until we have immunity, until we have a vaccine,” Newsom said at his daily news conference.

By that standard, the All-Star game at Dodger Stadium would not be played this season, at least not on its scheduled July 14 date, and the Dodgers, Angels, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics likely would not play before large home crowds this season, if they played at home. A league spokesman said Thursday that “no decision” had been made about the All-Star game.

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Dana White is staging UFC 249 on Saturday night in Florida. It will be the first live major professional sports event in the U.S. in nearly two months.

Beyond that, however, Newsom illustrated the tension that could arise between leagues that want to resume play and the local and state officials that would have to sign off. The result could be a patchwork arrangement in which leagues could play before no fans in some cities, limited crowds in some places, and large crowds in other places — and perhaps not at all in some locales.

In April, for instance, UFC planned a fight card on tribal land near Fresno that is not subject to state law. Newsom leaned on ESPN and its parent company, Disney, to call off the event.

UFC President Dana White said to the Los Angeles Times that President Trump told sports officials on a conference call that “we have to get live sports back.” White will stage a UFC card in Florida, with that governor’s consent but without fans.

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Under Florida’s reopening plan, the Tampa Bay Rays could play home games now, provided that they limited the crowd to 25% of capacity.

But Newsom suggested that leagues proposing to play games without fans have yet to provide detailed plans as to how players and other personnel would be kept safe.

“Imagine what the league — broadly, leagues — do when one or two of their key personnel or players are tested positive,” Newsom said. “Do they quarantine the rest of the team if an offensive lineman is practicing with a defensive lineman, and they are tested positive? What happens to the rest of the line? What happens for the game coming up next weekend? It’s inconceivable to me that that’s not a likely scenario.”

The Dodgers’ Justin Turner and his wife Kourtney have delivered more than 500,000 meals to the needy since March. He’ll be a free agent this winter.

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MLB is expected to present a season proposal to its players’ union in the coming days. In an interview with MassLive, Boston Red Sox pitcher Collin McHugh acknowledged that some MLB teams might not play at home at all this season. He also said some players and coaches might be reluctant to participate.

“I’m a husband, I’m a father. There are many guys in the league with underlying conditions, with preexisting conditions, like diabetes and heart arrhythmias,” McHugh said. “You look at our coaching staffs, there’s tons of guys over 65. Umpires, there’s a lot of guys over 65. When you’re talking about the risk factors here, there are going to be some guys who sincerely have to weigh the risks of what it’s going to take to come back versus staying at home.”

Newsom acknowledged that local teams are a source of community spirit and pride, and he wants live sports back as soon as possible.

“It’s a very tough question for these leagues to answer, because they must have a safety-first, health-first mind-set,” he said, “and there are conditions that persist in this state and this nation that make reopening very, very challenging.”


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