- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2020

Making an unannounced appearance on NBC’s telecast of an exhibition golf match Sunday, President Trump said in an interview that the country is making progress on the return of live sports during the coronavirus pandemic.

In early April Mr. Trump hosted a conference call with commissioners from most of the prominent North American sports leagues and bodies, including PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

“We want to get sports back. We miss sports, we need sports, in terms of the psyche of our country,” Mr. Trump told NBC broadcaster Mike Tirico. “And that’s what we’re doing. I had great talks with Jay, I had great talks with (PGA of America CEO) Seth, Seth Waugh … We’re getting it back, Mike. We’re getting it back and it’s gonna be fast.”

Mr. Trump said sports’ return will “start out with small crowds, if any.” Sunday’s golf exhibition had no fans, nor did the first NASCAR Cup race since March. The PGA Tour plans to hold its first four tournaments in June and July without spectators, and the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball are reportedly making plans to return that will not include the presence of fans at first.

Asked for a timetable for when fans can return to sporting arenas, Mr. Trump stressed that it was important to him that things will go “back to normal” in a safe way.

“When you have all of those tens of thousands of people going to your majors and going to golf tournaments, we want them to have that same experience,” he said. “We don’t want them to be having to wear masks and be doing what we’ve been doing for the last number of months, because that’s not getting back to normal. We want to be back to normal. We want to have the big crowds and they’re practically standing on top of each other, and they’re enjoying themselves, not where they’re worried.

“But in the meantime, they do the social distancing and they practice that and they’ve been doing really well. The country is ready to start moving forward.”

The president, an avid golfer and golf resort owner, said he hasn’t played golf himself since “this problem that we had started.” He also touted the performance of the American economy before the pandemic took hold in the U.S. 

Mr. Trump delivered a similar message in a pre-taped message before last week’s UFC fight card, saying in part, “We want our sports back.”

Mr. Trump spoke Sunday afternoon during “TaylorMade Driving Relief,” a live skins match pitting Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff and the first live golf on television since the pandemic halted live sports in March. The four PGA Tour golfers played to raise money for front-line health workers and other COVID-19 relief efforts.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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