On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the New York Times about sports and the global pandemic.
The Q & A covered a lot of ground. He spoke about youth sports, the future of social distancing in stadiums, the economic fallout of no pro sports, and, of course, he gave his take about when sports can come back.
“Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything.” Fauci told sportswriters James Wagner and Ken Belson. “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 this sport for this season.’”
Reading through the interview, I couldn’t help but think, will Fauci’s opinions on the sports world get him fired?
The idea that some sports should remain on pause for a year is new for Fauci, whose words contradict what he has said in the past.
Weeks ago, he told Snapchat’s Peter Hamby that sports could come back safely in a fan-free, surveillanced environment. For Fauci, this best case scenario is still a possibility. But now, according to Fauci, it is starting to look less realistic.
“What we need to do is get it, as a country and as individual locations, under control. That sometimes takes longer than you would like, and if we let our desire to prematurely get back to normal, we can only get ourselves right back in the same hole we were in a few weeks ago.
We’ve got to make sure that when we try to get back to normal, including being able to play baseball in the summer and football in the fall and basketball in the winter, that when we do come back to some form of normality, we do it gradually and carefully. And when cases do start to rebound — which they will, no doubt — that we have the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing.”
Getting back to “normal” for Fauci may be at odds with his boss, President Trump. Trumps’s version of normal includes 110,000 Alabama Football fans in Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall.
Trump desperately wants sports back. But not merely for the games. It’s the idea of sports and what it can offer to his political ethos. He needs to complain about the NFL going “soft.” He needs to curse out black players who kneel on the sidelines. He needs to masquerade sexually predatory behavior as “locker room talk.” And he needs to be paraded and applauded at mega events.
This kind of “normal” is great for Trump and his base, but maybe not for Fauci.
This month, there were rumors that Fauci’s 35-year run as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases could be coming to end. Those rumors reached a boiling point when Trump retweeted a user who wrote #FireFauci in a tweet.
Clearly, the President does not have a problem firing anyone in his way. Dr Fauci is no exception.
If sports are not back by the fall, don’t expect Fauci to be invited back to the White House.