The governors of three of the nation's most populous states -- California, New York and Texas -- said Monday that professional sports can only return to their respective states without spectators as they outlined their reopening plans.
Professional sports leagues have ground to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, and all three states are considering how to bring games back as they navigate phased reopenings of their economies. A return of professional sporting events -- even without spectators -- will likely signal a particularly important milestone for fans by offering a semblance of a return to normalcy.
Touting California's progress in mitigating the virus' spread, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said at a news conference Monday that professional sports could return without spectators as early as the first week in June if the current trends continue.
Sporting events in the state would be subject to modifications and prescriptive conditions, Newsom said. Leagues and local leaders would specifically have to make "deep stipulations" to protect not only the players, but their support systems as well.
"We are moving deliberately on a phased approach," he said.
Newsom's comments echo similar remarks from a fellow Democrat, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said Monday he's asked professional sports to begin planning to reopen without fans, and that the state is willing to help.
"New York state will help those major sport franchises to do just that," the governor said during his daily news conference. "Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen we're a ready, willing and able partner."
"I think this is in the best interest of all the people and in the best interest of the state of New York," he added.
Both California and New York house enormous media markets as well as major sports teams. As a result, Newsom and Cuomo are among the most visible state leaders wrestling with a safe timeline to reopen their states.
And while both have been at odds with President Donald Trump at different points during the pandemic, all three have acknowledged the role professional sports teams play in the lives of many of their constituents.
Praising a live charity golf event on Sunday, the President said the return of sports would be good for the nation's "psyche."
"We want to get sports back, we miss sports, we need sports in terms of the psyche of our country," he said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that some professional sports teams in his state can apply to hold events without spectators beginning May 31-- including golf, outdoor racing, baseball, softball, tennis, football and basketball.
"Our goal is to find ways to coexist with Covid-19 as safely as possible," Abbott said Monday.
Still, Texas -- one of the first states to start reopening -- had its highest single-day increase in new cases over the weekend prompting new warnings from public health experts that relaxing social distancing measures too early could send states back to where they started.
Across the US, more than 90,000 people have now died, and more than 1.5 million people have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University data.