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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Sports, lies & COVID-19: A White House history after Trump tests positive

Donald Trump tweets late Thursday night that he and The First Lady tested positive for COVID-19.
Donald Trump tweets late Thursday night that he and The First Lady tested positive for COVID-19.
Graphic: Eric Barrow (Getty Images)

Donald Trump has coronavirus. Who could’ve seen it coming?

Oh, that’s right, everyone. Because even if you’ve just spent the last six-and-a-half months looking at the world through the prism of sports, you’ve been able to see just how reckless the President of the United States has been with his handling of COVID-19. And now he has it. At least, he says he has it.

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He probably does, because even though he’s a giant habitual liar, his giant habitual lies almost always serve one purpose: to make himself look better. Lying about this wouldn’t do that. But still, he’s a giant habitual liar, so just because Trump says that he and his wife have coronavirus, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

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Either way, it’s worth revisiting how 2020 has unfolded between Trump, the pandemic, and sports — not to be confused with how 2020 has unfolded between Trump, racism, and sports, a story that’s just as shambolic on the president’s part. Naturally, the two biggest embarrassments for Trump at Tuesday night’s debate with Joe Biden were his failure to disavow white supremacists, instead telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” and his mockery of Biden for regularly wearing a mask.

Cumulative United States coronavirus infection and death data is from the tracker at
worldmeter.info

March 20

20,873 infected │ 310 dead

Before the real explosion of 2020’s two dominant themes, they wind up intertwined in Trump’s initial attempts to avoid responsibility for the pandemic by doing racism, referring to COVID-19 as “Chinese Virus.” This leads to legendary baseball statistics guru Bill James absolutely telling on himself with a couple of tweets about how things aren’t as racist as you might think they are.

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March 27

108,542 infected │ 2,131 dead

News emerges that Trump called Alex Rodriguez for advice on coronavirus response. A-Rod later fails to buy the Mets, so he winds up remaining on ESPN, annoying baseball fans everywhere by complaining about teams not bunting enough these days. Thanks to the pandemic resulting in unprecedented levels of telecommuting, A-Rod is able to broadcast games played in different cities on the same day.

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April 4

322,812 infected │ 10,537 dead

Trump has a conference call with sports commissioners to discuss the very important issue of getting back in action by the end of summer, and having the NFL season start on time. Ludicrously, those things do actually happen, although outside of “The Bubble” environments set up by the NBA, NHL, and WNBA, there are constant outbreaks among athletes once they do start playing.

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April 14

629,883 infected │ 27,693 dead

“We have to get our sports back,” Trump says at his then-daily coronavirus briefing, at a time when cases have nearly doubled and deaths have nearly tripled in a period of 10 days. “I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old.” Was Trump watching Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, which MLB streamed on Twitter two nights earlier, just so he could see himself sitting in the front row as Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltrán? We’ve never gotten confirmation on that, but, yeah, you know he totally did.

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April 23

898,164 infected │ 51,191 dead

Trump suggests possible cures for coronavirus including shining ultraviolet light “inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way,” or using disinfectant, “by injection inside or almost a cleaning.” New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo notes this important distinction, that the President of the United States was not, in fact, telling people to drink bleach. No, he was just saying to shove an ultraviolet light up your butt or shoot up with Lysol.

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April 28

1,044,849 infected │ 60,406 dead

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells The New York Times, “Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything. If you can’t guarantee safety, then unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without sport for this season.’” This undercuts Trump’s message two weeks earlier that he wants “every seat occupied” for Alabama football games by the fall. By the time Alabama does open its season, capacity at Bryant-Denny Stadium is limited to 20 percent.

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The next day, seriously the very next day — April 29, 2020 — Jared Kushner goes on Fox & Friends and drops this doozy:

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this and I think that we’ve achieved all of the different milestones that are needed, so the federal government rose to the occasion and this is a great success story. And I think that’s what really needs to be told.”

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May 23

1,684,613 infected │ 101,132 dead

As plans develop in various stages to accede to Trump’s wishes and get American sports back on track, the president complains about churches not being allowed to hold in-person services. Meanwhile, eight positive tests on one team in Liga MX prompt Mexico to call off its entire summer soccer season.

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June 25

2,508,491 infected │ 127,720 dead

After a brief flirtation with getting things under control, the United States gets back to setting daily highs for new cases of COVID-19, thanks to an aggressive attempt in many places to return to “normal,” including the beginning of ramping up toward sports seasons. Trump at this point is mostly quiet about sports as they relates to the pandemic, mostly because it’s racial issues that have moved to center stage in June, including NASCAR’s ban on the Confederate flag at a time when Trump is railing against the idea of renaming military bases currently honoring traitors to America.

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July 23

4,188,208 infected │ 147,949 dead

Baseball season opens, hours after it’s revealed that Juan Soto, one of the game’s best young talents and star of the defending world champion Nationals, tested positive for coronavirus. Trump says he’s going to throw out the first pitch at the Yankees-Red Sox game on August 15. This earns the Yankees what turns out to be undeserved criticism for inviting him (sorry, Yankees!), because…

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July 28

4,520,752 infected │ 152,436 dead

It turns out that Trump lied about going to Yankee Stadium to throw out a first pitch, and that he made up the whole thing because he was jealous of Dr. Fauci being invited to throw out the first pitch at the Nationals’ opener.

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August 15

5,554,736 infected │ 173,174 dead

The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 11-5. Trump is not there because he was never invited to be there, which everyone already knows from two weeks earlier, but Trump decides to drop another whopper that he, in fact, canceled because of his “strong focus on the China Virus, including scheduled meetings on vaccines, our economy, and much else.” This is also a lie, as Trump, on the day his brother Robert dies, spends the entire day at his New Jersey property and plays a round of golf with former NFL kicker Jay Feely.

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August 26

6,120,467 infected │ 183,279 dead

Former Jets coach Lou Holtz, who once compared sending college football players onto the field in a pandemic to the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, gives a speech to the Republican National Convention — not in person, of course, because of the still-raging pandemic — in which he calls Trump “an outstanding leader” who “genuinely cares about people.”

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September 16

6,858,767 infected │ 201,351 dead

After announcing a month earlier that it planned to shut down for the fall, Big Ten football announces its intention to return to play. Trump, who had pushed for this, goes on to brag about it at Tuesday’s debate, somehow trying to deflect from talk about him having paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

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October 1

7,494,671 cases │ 212,660 dead

One day after Major League Baseball decides to put some 11,000 tickets on sale for each game of the World Series, to be held in the coronavirus hotspot of Texas, the NFL announces its first COVID-related regular-season postponement, as 11 positive tests in the Tennessee Titans organization — five players, six staffers — force their Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be called off.

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Ten minutes before the end of the Dodgers’ two-game sweep of the under-.500 Brewers in the new “National League Wild Card Series,” created by the pandemic-ravaged season, Trump announces that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Sorry to all the other Jesse Spectors for ruining your Google results.

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