In a telephone appearance during a televised charity golf exhibition on Sunday, President Trump enthusiastically supported the return of live sports events during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to get sports back, we miss sports,” Trump said. “We need sports in terms of the psyche of our country. And that’s what we’re doing.”
On Sunday, at roughly the halfway point of a skins game match involving four of the PGA Tour’s top golfers — Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff — Trump praised NBC for carrying the event, then called for a more robust resumption of activities in all sports.
While Sunday’s golf exhibition was contested without spectators, the president said he hoped that future events would be teeming with fans.
“We want to get it back to where it was, we want big, big stadiums loaded with people,” Trump said. “We don’t want to have 15,000 people watching Alabama-LSU, as an example.”
Trump later added: “We want to get back to normal where you have the big crowds, and they’re practically standing on top of each other and enjoying themselves, not where they’re worried.”
“I would love to be able to have all sports back,” Fauci said. “But as a health official and a physician and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we’re not ready for that yet.”
The PGA Tour is planning to become one of the first major American sports to return to competition with the Charles Schwab Classic on June 11 in Fort Worth. A lengthy, almost weekly schedule of men’s golf tournaments is set to follow, including the P.G.A. Championship in San Francisco in early August, the United States Open in mid-September outside New York City and the Masters in November in Augusta, Ga.
“When you have the Masters, we want to have big crowds,” Trump told NBC. “And now, right now, that’s not what they’re planning, but you never know what happens. Things can happen very quickly.”
Trump added, “We’re getting it back and it’s going to be fast.”
It was not a complete surprise that the president, who is an avid golfer, golf fan and golf course owner, would be included in the NBC broadcast of the first live golf event in more than three months. Golf’s leaders have been in touch with Trump since mid-March, with the PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, consulting with Trump before he suspended the tour’s season on March 13 and canceled a signature event, the Players Championship.
At one point, Trump was asked about his golf outings with professional players, a group that has included McIlroy, who played with Trump in 2017. In a recent interview with the McKellar Golf Podcast, McIlroy said he accepted the invitation to play with Trump out of respect for the office of the president, but would not likely do so again.
“I will sit here and say that the day I had with him I enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything, or, in fact, anything he says,” said McIlroy, who also criticized Trump for “trying to politicize” the response to the pandemic.
McIlroy added, “It’s just not the way a leader should act, and there is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show, and I just don’t think he’s shown that, especially in these times.”
But Trump said he relished his time in the presence of PGA Tour pros.
“Some like my politics very much and probably some don’t,” the president said. “I guess the ones that don’t I don’t get to see as much.”