With different states applying different rules to reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown, sports leagues are in a bind.
If Arizona is open for business in the fall and California, particularly Los Angeles, maintain regulations that don’t allow for sports, what’s the NFL going to do?
Some are floating the idea of teams playing “home” games in different states. Such as the Los Angeles Rams or Chargers playing in neighboring Arizona or Nevada.
Mike Pouncey OK with playing away from home
Chargers center Mike Pouncey is fine with the idea. He confirmed with reporters in a conference call on Wednesday that he expects to be ready to go this fall after finishing last season on injured reserve with a neck injury. He was asked on the call if he’d be OK playing “home” games in Nevada or Arizona.
He is, and he says, according to ESPN, most of the league’s players are on the same page.
“All of us are dealing with change throughout these tough times,” Pouncey said, “and I think this is something that everybody in the world has to adjust to, not just us as football players.
“So we're all professionals whenever it comes to us having to work and feed our families, so if [we] have to go move to a different state or a different city to be able to get back to work and help feed our families, then I'm sure a lot of guys — most of the guys — would be up for it.”
Arizona, California on different reopening paths
The question came up as Arizona and Los Angeles County both made divergent announcements regarding shelter-in-place policies.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that major sports leagues can open for business in his state as soon as Friday.
Risk involved with reopening too soon
It’s a controversial decision that arrived on the same day the nation’s leading medical voice in the coronavirus crisis Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to the U.S. Senate that “consequences could be really serious” if states and municipalities open too soon.
As of Wednesday, the United States accounts for 1.3 million of the world’s 4.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and has recorded 82,000 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control predicted last week that the death rate would increase to 3,000 daily in the United States by the end of May.
Meanwhile Los Angeles County officials recommended extending stay-at-home orders until July.
Of course neither of these time frames has a direct impact on the football season, which isn’t scheduled to start until September. Nobody knows what the pandemic’s impact will be at that point.
What will pandemic’s impact be in September?
Arizona’s loosening of regulations could lead to a second wave of the outbreak and a reissuing of restrictions. Or maybe there will be enough optimism and medical advice to support reopening on a larger scale. It’s too far out to forecast.
Whatever the NFL season looks like, it’s unlikely that it will involve fans in stadiums. Which makes the idea of playing “home” games in different states easier to swallow. And based on the Chargers’ track record of drawing fans since leaving San Diego, that’s not really an issue for them either way.
Will team owners, players land on same page?
If the trends this week play out into the fall and some states allow sports while others don’t, the NFL will face difficult decisions and logistical hurdles. Teams forced to play away from home would have a legitimate gripe about being at a competitive disadvantage, even without fans playing a factor.
If it’s between making that sacrifice or not having football at all, it will amount to an easy decision for all 32 team owners. How players who will be taking on the most risk respond may be a different story.
Everybody may not be on the same page as Pouncey.
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