Many Americans say they are eager for professional and amateur sports to resume — they're just not as enthusiastic about attending the events in person, according to recent polling.
Sports at almost every level have been put on hold as Americans adjust to daily life under coronavirus restrictions. The desire to see a return to televised sports, however, isn't matched by a willingness to attend those competitions in proximity to thousands of fellow fans.
A Morning Consult survey conducted this month found that while 72 percent of U.S. adults polled expect professional and college sports to return before the end of 2020, just 48 percent said they would feel comfortable attending games by then.
Overall, most said they want the outbreak contained before fans start filling seats at stadiums and arenas.
Seventy percent of respondents said sports should return only after it is safe to hold large gatherings.
That apprehension was even more defined in a recent Seton Hall Sports Poll survey.
According to the poll, 72 percent of respondents said they would not attend games before a vaccine was widely available. Health officials have warned it could take up to 18 months to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
Professional sports in the U.S. have been on hiatus for about a month.
On March 11, the NBA was the first American sports league to suspend play. Other leagues followed suit by either suspending or postponing play, as concerns about the virus quickly shut down schools and businesses deemed nonessential by state and local governments.
Major tournaments such as March Madness, The Masters and Wimbledon have all been canceled for 2020. The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start at the end of July, are now slated for 2021.
But with some health experts now signaling that parts of the U.S. are reaching the peak of the outbreak, fans and politicians alike are starting to ask, when will sports be back?
President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE has been talking about reopening the economy, which has been hemorrhaging jobs due to the outbreak, as well as professional sports.
On Saturday, Trump held a call with 13 commissioners and leaders from the country's major sports leagues.
“I want fans back in the arenas,” the president told reporters the same day at a White House briefing. “By whenever we’re ready, as soon as we can. And the fans want to be back, too.”
Trump sidestepped a question about whether he envisioned fans back in stadiums by August.
“But I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later,” Trump said. “We’re not going to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet."
Major League Baseball has considered having all 30 teams start the season in Arizona, where half of its teams hold spring training, and continue playing at empty venues until virus concerns across the country subside. Before the coronavirus, the season was slated to begin March 26.
However, some experts and officials have suggested it could be months until fans are back in stadiums.
Dean Winslow, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford, told The Washington Post, “I think perhaps if anything, having large spectator sports open back up may even have to be delayed a little bit longer than relaxing some of the other things. I hate to say that because I’m a big sports fan."
"We'd be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving," said Jeff Smith, a Santa Clara County, Calif., executive officer, referring to the return of public sporting events. "This is not something that's going to be easy to do."