April 15, 2020 / 9:46 PM / a month ago

California official: 'Major miracle' for NFL to start on time

There is a Hail Mary’s chance football season starts on schedule, at least in California.

Dr. Jeffrey Smith, the chief executive in Santa Clara County, told ESPN on Wednesday that more people will die if events are staged too early and that only a “major miracle” could lead to the 2020 NFL season starting on schedule.

Smith’s opinion has more weight than one might think.

Smith said the decision on allowing sports in Santa Clara will be made by the county public health officer, Dr. Sara Cody, who reports to him.

California law authorizes local health officers to “take any action (deemed) necessary to control the spread of the communicable disease.”

Within Smith’s purview are the San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks and three Division I universities. Smith told ESPN that beyond coronavirus containment, he will demand evidence that cities where visiting teams live have practiced safe distancing.

“It puts the entire country at risk,” said Smith, who is a medical doctor. “The fundamental thing is sports is not a local event. If you have people traveling from all over and you have no way of knowing whether they’re infected or not — I mean, 50,000 of them in a stadium is not a good idea.”

Smith previously said he felt the most optimistic timeframe for the NFL to begin would be Thanksgiving.

However, President Donald Trump since held a conference call with league commissioners and said he expects the NFL to start as scheduled.

“We want to get our sports back so importantly. We have to get our sports back,” Trump said, adding that he created a council on re-opening the country that includes sports owners and commissioners.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the NFL starting its season on time is not likely and that, “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”

The PGA Tour and MLS are pointing toward attempting to resume events sometime in June. The PGA Tour could be the first to return on June 11 in Texas but with no fans in attendance in Fort Worth.

“Neither the federal government nor the state government have the legal authority to contravene the public health officers,” said Smith. “The law was set up very specifically to make the public health officers’ decision an apolitical decision.”

—Field Level Media

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