Trump quizzes Houston Rockets owner on fate of NBA season
President Trump on Monday quizzed the owner of the Houston Rockets during a White House event about the fate of the NBA season, which has been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Tilman Fertitta, CEO of the Landry’s Inc. restaurant group and owner of the Rockets, said he expected the league to resume play in the coming weeks if states continue to lift restrictions without a spike in cases.
“I think what they’re doing is waiting to see what happens in certain states and if we’re going to be able to play, making sure the virus continues to go in the right direction in the next few weeks,” Fertitta said.
“I think that if things keep going the way that it’s going, I think the NBA … will make the decision to try to start the season up again,” he added.
Fertitta was one of several restaurant executives to attend a roundtable with Trump and other administration officials to discuss how the industry has been affected by the pandemic.
Fertitta explained changes he would like to see to the Payroll Protection Plan, noting that wealthier corporations like his returned loans since they were intended for smaller businesses. He urged the administration to create a separate category to help larger companies seeking government assistance to pay their employees.
But Trump at multiple points jumped in to inquire about whether the NBA intended to restart its season.
The Rockets owner argued that players “need to play to get paid,” signaling there is a financial incentive to restart games. He and Trump agreed that the best course would be to resume the regular season before moving into the playoffs.
The president has repeatedly championed the return of sports as an indication of when the country will be able to return to a sense of normalcy amid the pandemic. Trump called into an NBC golf broadcast on Sunday to say he believes things will be back to normal once there are fans “standing on top of each other” without masks.
All major U.S. sports leagues suspended competition during the pandemic, though some are starting to come back with modifications. Golf returned last weekend with no fans, as did NASCAR.
New York and California announced on Monday that they would seek ways to allow sports to resume without fans in the coming weeks as parts of each state meet criteria to lift restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.