CHICAGO — Professional sports teams are looking for ways to get players back in the game, but it could take longer to get fans in the stands.
Gov. JB Pritzker said he’s spoken with multiple sports teams and leagues about how they could restart seasons that were suspended or delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The governor said he wants to get professional sports going — but he doubts people will be able to watch in person for some time.
“I want to get sports up and going. I think people need this as an outlet. No, it won’t be in person, at least not in the next month or two,” Pritzker said at a Thursday press conference. “But I think it’s very important for everybody’s psyche. We have some terrific sports fans all across the state of Illinois who want to see this up and running.”
Pritzker said he’s waiting for owners or league officials to present him with plans for how they could resume games.
League officials and team owners have told Pritzker they’re considering having games without fans, though people would be able to watch online or on TV, the governor said.
But other officials have noted even that could be difficult, as contact sports could lead to transmission of COVID-19 among athletes.
“I think they’re incentivized, by the way, the leagues are, to do the right thing. Partly they’re incentivized because they have players who are worth millions of dollars to them who are going to be on the field,” Pritzker said. “I think they want to protect their, for lack of a better word, assets and their people.”
The governor’s own plan for reopening Illinois, released earlier this week, notes there can’t be gatherings of more than 50 people until there’s a vaccine, widespread and effective treatment for coronavirus or until there’s a prolonged period without new cases. That’s likely months away.
But if an effective treatment is developed, which could happen sooner than a vaccine, Pritzker said he’s willing to change his playbook for the state’s reopening.
“If we have a very effective treatment and, or, we have a vaccine available, then I can’t wait to welcome people back to large gatherings, to conventions and so on,” Pritzker said. “I’m the first person that wants to bring business to the state of Illinois and put people back to work.”
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