Topic: When and how to resume major sporting events, pro leagues as well as youth and college sports, what is the economic impact of sports industries, and what are the health concerns of resuming sports under a pandemic.  

Media are invited to participate and ask questions in this Zoom meeting, either on camera or by chat. 

When: June 18, 2020. 2PM-3PM EDT

Where: Newswise Live Zoom Room


  • Dr. Lisa Delpy Neirotti - Director of the MS in Sport Management Program and an associate professor of Sport Management - George Washington University School of Business
  • David Pierce Ph.D - Associate Professor; Director of Sports Innovation Institute -  Indiana University
  • Dr. Lee Kaplan, Chief of the UHealth Division of Sports Medicine and director of the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute
  • Jayson Kratoville BA, MPA - Interim Director of the National Center for Security & Preparedness - University at Albany

Registration for media, as well as colleagues from participating Newswise member institutions

This live event will also be recorded and transcribed for use by media and communicators after it is concluded.


Thom: Welcome to this Newswise Live Expert panel, I'm your moderator here at Newswise Thom Canalichio. We have with us four experts to talk about reopening sports. I will introduce each of the panellists real quick and we’ll get straight into questions.

So, first I want to tell you we have Doctor Lisa Delpy Neirotti, she's the director of the MS and sports management program as well as an associate professor of sports management at George Washington University School of Business. Thank you Dr. Neirotti. 

We also have David Pierce. He's associate professor and the director of sports innovation institute at Indiana University. Thank you Dr. Pierce.

We also have Jason Kratoville; he's the interim director of the National centre for security and preparedness at University of Albany. And last but not least we have Doctor Lee Kaplan and he is the chief of the UHealth Division of sports medicine and director of university of Miami sports medicine institute. Thank you very much Dr. Kaplan.

We’ll get straight into some questions and first for Dr. Kaplan, are professional and college sports concerns about Covid, generally the same, are they aligned or what differences might there be between dealing with reopening pro sports and continuing sports at the college level?

Dr. Kaplan: I think the general concern about playing competition and whether you're going to pick up exposure to Covid-19 is ubiquitous among it, but each of these are very different. I think even in the pro sports they are different. So, the University of Miami, there are a lot of rules for the college athletes in terms of what they're dealing. There's a high level of exposure of college students just meeting in the dorms and their living conditions and then we have limited facilities with 500+ athletes at the university of Miami, some schools like Florida, Wisconsin they have 800 – 1000 athletes, whereas for instance I was talking to an NBA player today and the whole idea that they're going to go to Orlando, they're much more restricted in terms of who they're going to be around and somebody that's in college and their comings and goings.

Baseball – we take care of the Miami Marlins, and in baseball although the team may be limited, they aren’t going to live in their own homes, they're going to travel. So each of them are little unique based on sport and then Jason Brownlee commented on the federal and security side of it, from the health security – I think one of the things that’s going to change Thom is that we’re going to call – security is also going to have a public health component moving forward and if you look at what Doctor Fauci said this morning, that was published on ESPN, he doesn't think we’re going to be able to play football - that’s impossible in college sports. 

Thom: The logistics certainly are a concern. For Doctor Peirce, you conducted a survey and you got many thousands of responses from all across the country about youth sports programs, what from those responses can you tell us were the most important things to parents and athletes in their responses.

Dr. Pierce: Yes we had over 10,000 responses from 45 states, parents of people competing in youth sports, both on the travel and on the recreation side and one of the top results was anything related to sanitisation of high touch areas and then also the playing areas and equipment, those are the things that the more people experience of those, the more satisfied they were with the new user experience in the Covid era so to speak, we also had some other – and they were also willing to pay for it as well and most of them indicated the willingness to pay increased fees to cover that and that is a significant deal, especially on the recreational sport side of things for your local rec programs, I just saw a note from someone locally here in Indianapolis, the bill is going to be $45,000 just to cover the fall season, so that’s difficult for these smaller non-profit organisations to absorb. The other things that kind of fit into the must be category – so these are the things that don’t necessarily get people excited to be enduring them but if they're not there they become dissatisfied and that is limiting the personal contact between athletes, so there are your three H’s – the handshakes, the high fives and the hugs. Another one was limiting admission to those who were under 65 and had no conditions, so that’s kind of for this period of time – a no grandparents rule so to speak at Youth Sporting events. Social distancing and seeing that visible and respecting those who are trying to enforce it, that was in the must be category and then the final one – which I actually thought was surprising was the people’s willingness to complete sort of a health screening to gain admission. So, on the travel sport side, that’s also reporting in where you're staying, your contact information as we get into those contact tracing issues, in addition to answering questions about your health. But the one thing that people did not want to see – we used something called the Kano model to classify these different adaptations, the thing that people did not want to see was – eliminating spectators completely. So, in other words sending your kid in to only go compete and not being able to follow along. So that’s kind of the high-level results that we had in our study in the youth’s sports base.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Pierce. To Dr. Neirotti, from the management perspective – how should and how are league officials as well as school administrators or the people who run companies that do youth sport programs, how are they weighing the risks of spreading Covid with the possible benefits to the business. The community, their school – how does a good manager tackle looking at those two columns, the pros and the cons.

Dr. Neirotti: I mean it really is about risk and rewards and on the risk side you could take all the precautions that you could possibly think of, yet you have just a handful of students may go out to a night club, or go someplace and contract Covid, bring it back without even knowing and then its rampant. So that’s the big what if and there are some sports on the sport side – there are some sports that may be able to be controlled more than others. Football has 60 to a 100 people, when you start counting in all the trainers and coaches – and that’s a large number of people to continually test and monitor and make sure that they don’t socialise with other people outside of the circle – safe circle, and so that’s where you could find football having difficulties, unlike basketball has a smaller safe circle.

Thom: thank you Dr. Neirotti. Now I want to open this poll question and I'm going to ask Dr. Kratoville to answer this question while we get responses from the audience. So, the poll question we’d love everyone to respond to – I'm launching that, so I believe everyone should see a pop up – “Is it fair for parents to send their kids to play sports even if that raises their communities’ risk of spreading Covid?” professor Kratoville, what would you say to that?

Prof. Kratoville: So I think a lot of times we frame this question in terms of –how does this impact my safety and the safety of the people around me and I do think that’s the first question but where I think we can get people thinking is that – and Dr. Neirotti alluded to this a little bit, the most powerful group of people in determining how this virus is going to spread and what its impact on our public health and economy is going to be – are individuals, are citizens, and empowering them with information to know – if you engage in these high risk activities, you're increasing the likelihood of a negative public health outcome and you are increasing the likelihood of a negative economic outcome, but more importantly if you abstain from these – if you take this action, if you make this sacrifice, you actually are increasing the likelihood that we’re going to get back faster and increasing the likelihood that we can engage in organised sports in the long term without a bunch of fits and starts. So, I think that latter framing, that less scolding framing is going to be the important way to cover this going forward is – this is the proactive approach that you can take to control how this is going to go for your community and your family.

Thom: Thank you Jayson, let me just mute your audio. The poll stopped after only a few responses, so I just wanted to relaunch that, please do give us your responses to that question and I want to open this up to the other panellists as well, Dr. Neirotti, what do you think about this question? Is it fair for reopening sports programs if that’s going to raise the risk of Covid? 

Dr. Neirotti: I must say my son started playing on Sunday in a Lacrosse club team and they have all the safety precautions in place, my son did say they spaced out, they were only doing passes, they were only doing drills, more fitness activities but they plan to go to a tournament – three of them later this summer and I'm still curious how that’s going to work because that would be full contact. They're saying they're doing shorter games but I'm still saying, you're contacting other people. So, they have not given further guidance.

Thom: It’s such a tough call, Dr. Pierce what do you think about this question?

Dr. Pierce: well I think there's a lot of benefits to participating in sports, so if we’re talking about weighing the advantages and disadvantage, there's tons of research over the last 30 years and a lot of addificacy around the power and the influence that youth sport has on kids and right now just like Dr. Neirotti, I've got a son who was going to play baseball and it was really the only summer activity that we were going to engage in and our town decided to cancel it while a lot of the other ones are still competing and its still – when there's no school and nothing, there are socialisation things that kids are missing out on in addition to the physical activity and those sorts of things, so I guess it’s really – anything we go out and do in public you could put framed in that same question – to take a trip two hours away to go to the gas station to get a pop, I mean there's lots of things that people can engage in that you can probably put in that same question.

Thom: So, what I think I hear in your answer Dr. Peirce is that if you're going to take this risk of participating in sports you should be really extra careful about all the other risks that you might be taking, is that a fair thing to ask?

Dr. Pierce: Yeah, I think participating in youth sport would fit into the classification of a variety of other entertainment and recreation things that we would do at this time. 

Thom: Dr. Kaplan, what do you think of this question, is it fair for parents to send their kids to play sports if that’s going to raise risk of spreading Covid?

Dr. Kaplan: I'm glad David and Lisa spoke before me, I have to tell you, from a statistical perspective, which we do a lot of here – it’s a very loaded question, and the reality – and Jayson will tell you, if you go outside you're a risk right. I think minimising the risk is critical. Allowing people to do things – but I really have to tell you and I don’t know how old David’s child is but having two teenagers, the kids cooped up is a major issue. Fortunately, my children don’t have mental health issues, but we’re hearing more and more of how these triggers are there, so – although Covid is a problem – Thom – I think we talked about this the other day – the multitude of other disease processes that have just rapidly advanced because of Covid. We have a history of this and I'm just going to take one second on this – after the crash of 2008, the markets crashed, there was a rebound effect of many chronic diseases, diabetes, cardiac disease, some neurologic diseases because people didn't seek care because they were in shock. The number of people that are going to study this event both on a – what I would call a natural looking – the air quality and everything else –but for instance we were watching the news and one of the – I apologise I don’t know who – which university, I think it was the university of Birmingham in England, the dean of the med school is an oncologist and he said, the national health service in England gets 30,000 new cases of cancer a month and in April they got 5,000. We know yes, we have incredible cost in medical care etc. here, but you compare us against the socialised system, it takes longer in treatment of certain oncological diseases we fair better, right, because we get people treatment fast. The number of people who died of cardiac and stroke issues at home without seeking treatment were much higher, so I think the question is that if the kids go out they're going to get everybody sick, I don’t think that’s really proven – I think if the kids are using the appropriate situations, their parents are – there's a higher risk probable if they go out and get pizza afterwards and they laugh and carrying on rather than playing baseball at Lacrosse. So, I think we’re going to have to do some risk stratification, people like Jayson can tell us – look this is the real risk, but your question is a little too jaded.

Thom: Fair enough, we want to get an honest response from all of you, so we wanted to pose it in those kinds of terms and I’ll go ahead and end the poll, we got 8 responses from our audience, a few people still didn't respond- and sharing the results with everyone – 7 out of the 8 said no to this question so I do think there is some concern, but all of your responses have maybe mitigated that concern a little bit. But, Dr. Kaplan since you mentioned examples such as the increases in stroke and heart attack death because people are not seeking emergency help, or the cases of cancer being detected plummeting and maybe people need to be going in to get checked for things like that – these are some of the consequences of the pandemic and I want to ask of Jayson – with this potential second wave creeping, or even if just – I don’t even know how to describe a second wave if we never really fully dropped far enough to begin with, does that kind of stop and start that might be part of this – from your background in emergency preparedness and those kinds of things, how does that effect both the long term economic recovery but also some of the factors like Dr. Kaplan mentioned – people not going to the hospital when they maybe have an emergency medical situation because they're concerned. There's a stop and start process if we had to shut things down again in a few weeks or months, what would that have in terms of an impact in those areas?

Dr. Kaplan: I think one of the first things that you're hearing from everyone is the broad complexity of this issue that it’s not just one issue, one virus, one thing and that the risk equation is incredibly diverse, but what I would like in this too – if this were a human enemy that we were facing, we would liken this to siege tactics where we’re basically under siege right now, and what happens over time is that people become a little bit more risk tolerant of that threat as they start to feel the very real impacts of being under siege, of not having access to certain things and the cascading impacts of that and then the second piece is there's also – it becomes this sort of sentiment that maybe this threat wasn’t that bad to begin with, especially in contrast to what we’re feeling now. So, I think what we need to do is empower people to realise that – what our experts tell us is, if you look historically at pandemics, the second waves hit pretty strongly for those reasons. So, you end up with a situation where people just kind of get – for lack of a better term – get tired of – and I mean that in a most empathetic way, people need jobs, people need their business to flourish, they lose some of their resilience to holding out and they sort of go out and – so I think the issue becomes, if we open things too soon-that there is the risk that the next time we try to open – if we shut back down, the next time we try to open, it’s going to be felt like we cried wolf the first time in trying to get stuff reopen and it’s going to be more sluggish of a start – but the question of what is too soon is an incredibly complex question.

Thom: Incredibly complex. Dr. Pierce – you told us a lot about the results to the survey and I want to dig in particular into some of the things that involve what lengths parents and families are willing to go to, you mentioned some of the things like added cost for cleaning. Can you tell us some more about that? What inconveniences are they willing to bear or is there some resistance to bearing certain inconveniences?

Dr. Pierce: I think by and large the big result is people realising there's going to be some level of inconvenience, so three things – other adaptations that really fit this question really well is just the realisation that – hey we’re probably going to have to limit amenities. So, the locker room is probably not going to be open, the concession stands are closed, so it’s like hey – if that happens, it’s something I can deal with. Another one was altering your arrival and departure routines, right – so maybe we’ve got to come fully dressed because we can't use the locker room. In a travel situation – maybe typically we’ve hung around to watch the next game, to watch our friend play or to see how that team we’re going to play next is –we can kind of scout them a little bit. So maybe we can't do that right now. So those are – and also changing your social distancing of your dugouts and your benches and all that – those are all things that showed up in our studies, things that people are realising is going to be a bit of an inconvenience but at the end of the day they're reporting it’s not going to impact their satisfaction or their experience or their willingness to engage in it.

Thom: thanks Dr. Pierce – doctor Neirotti, when it comes to trying to mitigate these risks, the plan may be what the plan is, but in practice things may break down and if that’s the case, are we setting up sports team to potentially – and their staff and all the other people around them, are they potentially a kind of canary in the coal mine here and could potentially become a new hotspot if things do break down and a lot of these detailed plans start to break down and aren’t followed closely?

Dr. Neirotti: As we all know commercial interests are pushing both universities and professional college and youth sports to going back. I'm still having to pay the same amount that I was paying pre-Covid for the youth lacrosse team, but in terms of these commercial interests as we’ve heard, you bring kids back, you want them to be in the dorms, you want them to buy the food in the cafeteria, those are all economic drivers and the same thing on the sports side though – I think the biggest piece of the pie in money is broadcast rights. So, as long as they can at a professional level, if you have field of play with no spectators, at least they can have broadcast feed that the majority of people who follow teams watch it on the media anyway. So, even for psychological reasons and then the commercial reasons, I think having sports without spectators is the best way to go there. If you can control it again, football is going to be more difficult. I was really surprise by Dr. Pierce when he said I believe that parents wanted to come in, that they felt that spectators should be allowed, I think for again the emotional reasons, I just want my son to be able to ply and I am fine and I think parents should be fine to back off if that’s what's going to make it safer for everybody.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Neirotti. We have a question from one of our media on the call, Josh Moore from the Lexington Herald Leader, Josh go ahead with your question.

Josh: Hey everybody thanks for doing this, my question is specifically for Dr. Kaplan. You look at the pro-athletes and they have unions they can collect really for them and they’ve worked out these deals and everybody has their own plans, but what rights do college athletes and coaches and staff members have in terms of – like if they say they choose not to participate at all, if college football was to happen, would that cost them scholarship money and would that be okay for schools to say that can't happen or would they have to consider giving those students who choose to sit out because of a pandemic, the option to come back and have another year of eligibility?

Kind of on top of that, what is the obligation to other schools to know what positive cases or negative cases, like whatever the situation is between institutions. Like if Florida and Florida State were to play one another, what should they be obligated to give to one another, information wise? And if nothing then should that be something that there needs to be considerations made for?

Thom: Thank you Josh, Dr. Kaplan?

Dr. Kaplan: Yes, a number of good questions and clearly, I find it fascinating that you used college football because I know in Lexington that’s just the warmup for the real sport, coach Perry’s team. Let me start at the end. 

So we have an outstanding athletics director at the University of Miami and Blake James who was the head of all the athletic directors last few years for the NCA and their group, the schools are actually going to have a way that they're going – I don’t know about telling which players have it, obviously there's a really moral and a heath obligation – not to play anybody that is sick, right, but you are going to be able to put some amount of circularity around what the rules are for each team. So, for instance – one of our away games are in Michigan State - we’re going to know exactly what Michigan States doing and Michigan State is going to know what the University of Miami has done. The question you asked about the union is a fascinating one. Today I was told by this agent that the MBA players have till July – I'm sorry June 24th to tell if they're going to play, I don’t know if that’s right or it has more to do with who is on the list, you guys know better than I, the college players – a couple of things happen. One – a high level communication. Second is – in your team, because of the social issues going on right now, the college players have a lot of voice right, they're getting buildings names changed, they're pulling down statues, so I think that's great in terms of if they have concerns. We’ve tried to educate – Ohio state actually had them sign a pledge because they wanted them to know what was being done for them and what they needed to do, because this is the new concussion right Josh, and kids unwell - I don’t really feel that bad, I'm not going to tell them that I don’t feel well right, but most of the larger schools, cause there's tremendous cross here, will be putting weekly tests. If a player doesn't want to play because of Covid, they won’t lose their scholarship. At least in university of Miami, we’ve already spoken about that. If they're not comfortable playing with the conditions, they don’t have to. And then in our spring sports – we’re beginning the baseball season, we have the number one baseball team in the country and I think we were at number five when this all shut down, those guys all got more eligibility because of the season, so that happened, but you guys could write for a decade on how this messed other athletes up right, I think it was Cornell University had the number one men's/women and men's hockey team, already in the playoffs and they got – there is no college hockey - I was at university of Wisconsin for 6 years, we won 3 national championships between the men and the women, that would have been a humungous disappointment for those athletes. So, I think that the college players don’t have a union but their voices are – I’ll tell you where we’re worried. We’re worried because college sports – the lifestyle and everything else and many of the college coaches, especially the elite basketball and football coaches are definitively above 60 if not 65, many in their 70’s and with core morbidities which we may or may not know about. so now what do we do? Right. Because Texas I think today said 14 kids tested positive, so I think you have to take the same health precautions around those coaches as you would anybody else.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Kaplan and thank you for your question Josh. I want to go to Dr. Pierce since Josh’s question brought up what are the liabilities of sharing – oaky this team had someone test positive, they're sitting out this game, but they may have been in contact with other players and that kind of thing might be a risk, so Dr. Pierce who takes responsibility if a youth league were to emerge as a new hotspot for spreading infections and what kind of thoughts are there about how many cases because deciding to shut things down and halt in future events?

Dr. Pierce: Yeah definitely an interesting question, so kind of the first line of defence is that if we’re talking in the travel sports world it is definitely the attitudes of the coaches and the team moms of how they're really going to try to follow all these different guidelines right, but then really the event owners and the event operators really become the ones I think with the decision making power to cancel events so that the venues themselves like here in Westfield Indiana we’ve got Grand Park, a 400 acre largest youth sports complex in the country, I talked with them this morning and their point was that our events are so short in the timeline, it’s unlikely that someone is going to – you're going to have enough time to realise that someone has contracted it and then there's a large enough number of people to shut down an event. So If we’re talking about youth travel events that are in that 3-4 day window, really the decision making really needs to come from the event operators and the owners and then clearly working with someone of the health department, and I would let the medical folks speak to the numbers and the percentages of kids that would need to come up with, I don’t feel qualified to answer that question, but I think really it’s up to the event owner and operator level where key decisions have to be made.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Pierce and bless you Dr. Kaplan. Dr. Neirotti, you have mentioned the size of the pro sports industry and concerns of for example revenue for universities, obviously being factors we can't ignore that. With pro sports – you mentioned it’s a 500-billion-dollar industry. Does that really have a positive net effect on their communities or is this just big corporations passing money back and forth and the people get to watch but is money really filtering down into the communities in a way that makes it have a significant positive impact?

Dr. Neirotti: Well there's a couple of things there, one is it does make an impact when you start thinking about the ushers, the ticket takers, the concessioners who are making the food and using catering companies, the local hotels that host the teams that travel again, the transportation companies that provide the buses. So, yes there's big dollars between – the media companies, but there is a huge ripple effect down into the local economy just around events, hosting the games and then you look at youth sports and that’s a 19 billion dollar industry onto itself and again it’s the ripple effect there as well. I mean just – I travel to a different county and I go to a fast food place with my kids instead of coming home and eating. So that’s just another – I'm bringing money into a different economy.

Thom: Great, thanks for those point Dr. Neirotti. We have a question from Randy of Clay Today Sports in Florida, so Randy asks in small North Florida county where he lives, youth football and Pop Warner came out and restarted first and high school sports starting again shortly after. It seems illogical that with high schools being more restrictive that the youth sports were going full on. Is there a disconnect here to having a consistent protocol. Any of our panel like to tackle that question?

Dr. Neirotti, please.

Dr. Neirotti: It’s really just about public versus private. I mean private companies can take more risks because they have less risk to take, I guess. I had to sign a waiver for my son, there's fewer people involved when you're talking about a high school, the whole government entity gets involved with that and its open to more liability.

Thom: Any other panellists want to weigh in on this? Inconsistency about different levels of programs? 

We have another question from Will Prasad, I’ll go ahead and invite Will to ask that, go ahead Will.

William Prasad: Thanks for doing this panel, I work as a mental health and wellness expert in CBS station in Houston. I'm working on a story that takes a look at the psychological implications for players who either might not have a season, major league baseball, might have to face a different format, like the MBA or might be thinking about what happens if there's an abbreviated season that suddenly comes to an end. What might be the psychological reactions from the players?

Thom: Thank you Will, Dr. Pierce or Dr. Kaplan do you have thoughts about that?

Dr. Pierce: I just thought about it more from the youth sport level, not from the pro sport – so Dr. Kaplan id differ to you on that one. 

Dr. Kaplan: I think that Bill you're right, there are going to be effects, I think multiple effects. In the MBA you literally shut down overnight right, and people were clearly aware that players for instance the Utah and Detroit got stuck - so I know, I had operated on a player who reached out to me who had actually played against the Celtics in Utah in the last week of the season, so he's very concerned. So those issues. Regardless of how much money made, I think everybody who has a stoppage of salary is probably in issue, right. So, with baseball regardless of how much some of them makes, that becomes an issue. Our short staff at the University of Miami was drafted – I don’t know if you’ve seen but usually if you're drafted in baseball, your signing bonus – everybody in minor league makes the same amount of money but the amount of money that you make as a draftee is your signing bonus. The signing bonus is now split over three years. The inability – when you're an athlete and I think you probably could comment more on this than me – but we’re getting a very structured situation right. Who has the biggest problems for a mental health issue when they're done with their career? Often times people in the military and professional athletes, because they have this sudden stoppage of what they know – and I know that because the only doctors they know – cause we’re like their concierge people, they come to us regardless. I mean their grandmother has cancer – whatever – we become that person and so they have lost all that structure. There was a period about the second or third week of April where you started to see that Bill, where you started to see athletes get in really bad trouble, and I wondered why that was happening and fortunately they settled down and we didn't talk about it – but the answer to your question is – there's major psychological implications and now you're telling them to go and play in a bubble – right. So today a physical therapist that’s with one of the pro teams called about something else – he’s like I'm going to go into the bubble but I've got to leave cause I'm getting married and then I've got to quarantine – so the answer to your question is yes, and for all the reasons that everybody else has. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to a college ballgame, but it’s similar to the setup the MBA is doing, they give us a room where yeah you have all the chips and soda and everything else and maybe some video games and ping pong, and you’ve all the movies you want, but you're kind of stuck like you’ve missed your flight at the hotel – at the airport overnight and now you're talking about doing it for a minimum of 53 days. 

No families coming in, no girlfriends, no boyfriends – so it winds up – the answer to your question is yes, there's going to be psychological implications.

The other interesting thing that I would love for somebody like you that deal in sports to answer – I'm going to talk about this today, the MBA may not look like they looked at the end of the season right, there's a colourless team, the Lakers were colourless. Maybe somebody like New Orleans or Indiana pops up because they have great individual players and it’s more like an all-star game, because you don’t have that feeling that you had. In baseball we’ve talked about this – if they would end up playing 60 games, we’ve got some problems with the Marlins. Who knows, maybe we make a run because we have a younger team and people won’t get hurt. But I'm fascinated in your perspective, but the answer to your question is yes, I think we’ve all had psychological implications, just what level it affects you – but who can live in a bubble and perform – it will be a very, very interesting thing.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Kaplan, Dr. Neirotti would you like to add to this?

Dr. Neirotti: Yes, what we’ve realised is that these student athletes had no closure, they were immediately said that your seasons done, you're gone and hey, you still have to do classes online and these students are used to having some support system around them, they are now back living in conditions that may not be the same as at the university and so it was doubly hard because their support system was taken away, they were thrown right into a career transition, especially for those seniors that they knew this was going to be their last possible competition or season. So, there's lots of work out there on NFL players who transition out or get hurt, but we really haven’t spent that much time on collegiate athletes and I think this is – many of them are suffering right now.

Thom: Jayson, I want to ask if you can tell us about how your centre is helping with pro college or any other level of sports to make plans for these kinds of things or if not – what other local public officials are you working with for these sorts of plans.

Dr. Kratoville: So, we have linkages in a bunch of places and I think that are message has been consistent whether it’s been sports or businesses or universities, which is you need to look at your broad risk equation. You need to have a really good understanding of the threat, cut through a lot of the misinformation and the disinformation and understand what the science is saying about the threat. Understand your vulnerabilities to the threat. Some of your tangential threats like we’ve talked about here, where there are issues that are created by some of the decisions that you make, and then think about the broad range of consequences of the decisions that you make so – and long term consequences of the decisions that you make. You can't just think about over the next four months – how is this impacting my bottom-line, my business, my brand, our ability to play, the psychology of it or the psychological impacts of it, you have to think long term about where we’re trying to get to- I think that the overall goal is we want to be able to get back to a level of operations that allows us to be successful, right – so we want sports to get back to a level of operations where they're able to be played with audiences and concessions, the economic impact that they have to maintain the psychological impact on the players, or allowing them to maintain balance in their structure. You have to think about all of that in your decision making, but not with this sort of short-term lens. What I would say is that – short term relief isn’t worth a loss of long-term economic resilience and so we need to think about things in those terms. 

Thom: I wonder Jayson if you would be willing to tackle this follow up from Randy who asked about the discrepancy between pro and youth sports with his North Florida county starting up youth sports again already and he asked – he chatted a follow up kind of about this – is it primarily because younger athletes maybe have less risk of getting a bad case of the virus, is it about parental decision making versus professional organisations that have revenue on the line, versus high school or youth sports? What do you think about that in terms of the different risks and why maybe parents and youth sports in that area are willing to take a little bit more risk to get started sooner than the pro sports?

Dr. Kratoville: So, I think this is a really common problem in emergency management where when you're trying to manage a complex system it’s not just about what government agencies are doing, it’s about decisions that businesses and individuals are making and everyone's risk equation is different. And so that’s when you hear the federal government especially or local governments talking about public private partnerships and getting people to the table. The more you can coordinate, the better this works out and you have to get organisations thinking not just about how it’s going to impact them in their bottom-line, but also its wider community impact and how things can flow together. I can't speak to – I think one of our acclaimed doctors can probably speak to the risk relative to age, I would imagine it’s a lot less about that and like Dr. Neirotti said – a lot about what the risk tolerance is at different levels and that’s where getting back to your first question – to me at least, which was – how do we empower families and parents and individuals to make good decisions? They're going to be sort of the ultimate driver, right. So if there is a demand there, a private company is going to want to tap into that demand, but if we’ve gotten good information to the public in a situation where it may not be safe to send your kids to a sport, or where it may be safe, given certain precautions, that parents take those precautions, parents are empowered to have their kids take those precautions and keep themselves safe. That empowerment piece there is huge and it’s going to be the ultimate driver or a lot of these company’s decision making.

Thom: Thank you Jayson, Randy I hope that answers your question in some more detail. Dr. Kaplan I’d like to ask you about comparing and contrasting what's come out with the MBA’s plan and also what recent announcement have come out from the Major League Baseball. First about the MBA – this idea of putting the players into a bubble for nearly two months, having them all housed in Orlando, playing their games in arena’s in that area and not travelling, not having their family with them. It seems like a lot of hurdles but also a very high level of precaution to that – do you see that that plan is much better than other sports plan or are they being more cautious than necessary – what else might you think about that situation?

Dr. Kaplan: I think you have to almost look at this the way that Jayson just described it. I don’t think that’s feasible for the NFL – I'm not sure it’s feasible for major league baseball and major league baseball talked about doing something in Arizona and Florida like a spring training but there's a feasibility issue when you have 15 players – 35, versus travelling with a 150 and other things – so I wouldn’t say that – it all seems like a Tom Hanks – Apollo 13 kind of situation right where you're going to disappear for a while and come back but I think the points that have been made – it’s a juggle between the need and possibly – that’s what Bill was saying – psychologically finishing a season like the MBA – we saw that the teams that thought they could win it were really those athletes who were pushing for the finish, but what Lisa is saying – there are major economic issues and then how that kind of fits together. It’s almost impossible.

The only two sports that I think you could probably look at similarly would be hockey and basketball. The interesting thing is they're both looking at the same type of – live in a bubble kind of a thing – the interesting thing to me is that, we haven’t heard much about hockey. We’ve heard they're going to the playoffs, the players haven’t said much, but if you're just looking at how do you control risks – yes, having everybody in the same place, but that's with a 100% participation and being obligated. I think the most important thing about baseball and all the sports that we talked about – football is actually arriving now, is how often do we test, and there is a major disconnect between what will be affordable and what we do and I cannot imagine high schools having the wherewithal to deal with the college they’re going to deal, and quite frankly I can't imagine any IA colleges, a sophomore college doing what n SEC college could do, and in talking to a former Alabama player – I said to him – he's an NFL player now and I said – do you think this year they’ll come recruiting and he started laughing, he said of course – certain schools are going to say we’re testing, we’re doing more than somebody else – it’s just a reality check right. So, for instance the NCA, Bryan Hainline who is the medical director of the NCA in Indianapolis said – we want all players tested 1 -3 times a week plus 24 hours before the game. There are some difficulties there Thom, if you're not in the same location and you're travelling with a team in doing that, and Lisa brought something up with her – going to get food on the way to the game and then everybody – listen when you travel with a team, there are people feeding you, there are people doing that – so I think it all just comes down to a lot of practical decision making and making sure you're as safe as possible. The masks and the sanitizers are said to reduce your risk 50% - I can tell you in Miami if you drive down the street, 50% of the people will be wearing those. So, those will be the keys, it won’t be just being in the bubble. But if you're in the bubble, not participating risky behaviour through social distancing etc. – and if you want to play, that’s what's going to happen. In the end though what's going to happen Thom is we’ve going to have to be very nimble, okay – if we see there's an outbreak, if we see that somethings happening – I will be shocked if we think we’re going to get through a college football season without a game being cancelled, or a star quarterback or a Heisman trophy leading player just not being able to finish the season, cause even if you get quarantined – its two weeks. Then you have to test negative. That’s if you don’t have it. If you have it – it could be totally different. So, we’re really only at the beginning of this.

Thom: Dr. Neirotti, what are your thoughts about MBA’s bubble plan and how well you think that might work in their league as well as what that does in comparison to other leagues plans. 

Dr. Neirotti: Right, I mean it’s going to be a good test case to see if it actually works, this bubble – but ultimately, I think it’s going to be the public perception. I mean I was fascinated by our little small poll of how many people thought youth sports shouldn’t go because its unsafe to the rest, well I really believe that we can all make these plans of going back to universities and going professional but it’s going to be coming down to doing the right thing and if there's enough people like those on this poll that are saying this is crazy and I see if you take a sample of football teams right now, of how many people are coming up positive, if that is a sample population of the whole university, which they are – the student athletes, you’ve got a high percent of football team already testing positive.

Thom: Thank you, Dr. Pierce, with your knowledge of the results from your survey and other logistical concerns for example should be taking temperatures of athletes before every game or at every practice for example and how would you recommend that teams implement other logistical things like travel, meals, locker rooms, lodging, to protect not only the athletes themselves but the staff, the coaches, the trainers the people who cook the meals and every gas station and fast food joint they stop at on the way.

Dr. Pierce: Yeah its interesting right, so like the actual sport event and venue operators only have control over so much of that view sports or travel experience right, so they can shut down the locker rooms, that’s fine – but then there's all these other things as the other folks on the panel have said that you're out there doing. The temperature checks- we kind of included that in the bucket of the health screening question – parents seemed open to that, they actually put it into the must be category and really it does add a little bit of time and logistics but it’s really staffing events appropriately and those temperature checks come in pretty instantly. So, that would seem to be – assuming you can get them ordered and delivered, I've talked to a few operators that have said we’d love to do it but we can't find them anywhere, but they're fairly cheap, you can get a good one for 75 bucks a pop and that seems like a pretty reasonable investment to make given everything that’s going on. 

Thom: Jayson, what would you say is the most important thing for league officials, public officials, all these different people making decisions – what do they need to communicate most effectively and how can they communicate most effectively to get the kind of adherence to these policies that Dr. Kaplan was saying is a little bit of  variable and like Dr. Pierce said with the travel leagues, the companies that run those, they can only control so much, the locker rooms in the field but the travel to and from and carpools for example, being safe with those kinds of things. So, what kind of messaging and communication about the emergency preparedness can help to get the highest level of adherence across the board for these things?

Dr. Pierce: I’d say both consistent communication and focus on the facts and focus on the outcome, not so much on – lets prevent a catastrophe but more – this is what we’re trying to get to. We’re trying to get to the point where we’re all allowed to play sports and we’re all able to play sports. So if you do these things, if you wear a mask, if you practice good hygiene, if you maintain distancing, if you make smart decisions, it’s more likely that you're going to get to play for longer and incentivising it in that way and getting that message out there. It’s absolutely critical. What I would relate it to again and I think what's tough about the corona virus is it’s not something as a simple human adversary that you're able to go out – this is what this persons trying to do or this group of people is trying to do – but it’s sort of like a wartime mentality where its – hey, if we all chip in and reduce our use of metal and grow victory gardens and things like that, if we take those steps, we’re more likely to get the outcome we want to get. Very similar here, you take those basic hygiene distancing steps, you keep yourself informed on what's going on, cut through some of the misinformation and disinformation, it is more likely that your region, your area is going to stay open for longer and that you're going to get to keep doing things like sports and that it’s not going to get taken away again.

Thom: Let me just ask a couple of different questions related to this to the panellists, what is the value to our society, to our culture, mental health wise, of having sports back up and running? Dr. Neirotti, I wonder if you would share your thoughts about that for college and youth, I know you have personal experience with that – 

Dr. Neirotti: I think at the youth level at least just getting the kids out in some sort of exercise, fitness even if they aren’t doing contact, I think gives them something to look forward to, but in terms – and for the professional side, there's so many people who enjoy sports at home and that would give them something to look forward to if we can get the pros playing and having something on TV and the Korean and the Japanese baseball teams, they're making it work right now, European soccer just started so we’re still seeing, but again those are broadcast only, no spectators. So, for the mental and the commercial side, if the pros can get going I think that would be good, if the athletes – I have encouraged youth sports organisations to focus more on fitness, small groups and at least that brings them together, they have the community but it’s a safe environment.

Thom: Dr. Pierce I'm interested in your thoughts on this too, what is so special about sports that makes it worth it to go through all of these hurdles to get it going again? Cause I believe that it is too and I was so thrilled yesterday to be able to watch Manchester city beat Arsenal and my wife coaches high school soccer, she was really disappointed that they had to cut their league out in hopes that they’ll be able to do it again next spring, why do you think it matters so much Dr. Pierce?

Dr. Pierce: I’ll just answer from the participation side of things- it’s that sense of challenge. I can just see my son and his group of friends – there's not that kind of challenge of what are we trying to achieve or just kind of like just – I don't know – living without a challenge. So challenge on the participation side and that sense of accomplishment for achievement and then on the spectator side, sport has historically taken this place of bringing people together, better philosophers than me can argue whether or not it still holds that place and ability in society, but clearly there's a lot of things going on where that can still be a benefit given various news headlines of the day. So, there is that camaraderie in bringing people together that sport has historically done and probably can still do.

Thom: Dr. Kaplan why do you think sports is important enough to go for this and do it in spite of some of these risks and some of the problems and I see a message from Dr. Pierce that he has to run, so Dr. Peirce thank you so much for joining, I know you have a hard out, you have to go get your kids from camp – 

Dr. Pierce: Yeah, camp was open this week so that was good.

Thom: That’s great, I hope they're taking all the precautions and having a good time at it, thank you very much for your time today and we’ll make sure that we’ll share all the information about how to get in touch with you for any of the media on today’s call who want to follow up. Thank you, Dr. Peirce.

Dr. Kaplan, what can you tell us about why you feel sports is important enough that we go through all these hurdles and get it to happen and what that does for us symbolically, health wise – what do you think?

Dr. Kaplan: I think it’s a sense of everything that’s been said and I would add a sense of community. I think in pro sports and in college sports there's a real sense of community. It’s the beginning of getting back to some sense of normalcy. I also think sports have been very important part of this whole process. You cannot underscore enough the fact that MBA teams walked off the floor and it became a national story that Wednesday in March and the level – everybody had been talking about what was going on, but when they cleared those 15 – 18,000 fans from the stadium and then all of college sports were ended, earlier in that day the Ivy League ended sports and I was asked about that and I said – I’d like to get through the next two weeks. Right. There was a two week period, I figured all right it’s going to run through here pretty quickly and then we’ll know where we’re at, and by the end of the next day our university in Miami baseball team was in Orlando – they were going to fly to Virginia to play Virginia Tech and by the time they – that was all cancelled and they drove home their season was over. So I think, coming back it was just a little bit of sense of renewal, rebirth – that’s why all the religious holidays are in the spring right –and you have that – I also think sports can try to do it safely because – an interesting article I read from Hopkins was talking about something I think Jayson was talking about before that you can get so frustrated you just go out and do stuff right, which is probably why my state now has the highest number of growing cases. But it’s actually one of the ways that they think some of these diseases change in terms of their virulence etc. – so maybe sports is a natural progression of how we do it safely. Sports is also - the stadiums have been used as testing sites, the stadiums have been used for other purposes and repurposed, so getting back is going to be important. Lastly, college matters in the United States and high school matters in the United States, and so by getting some of these athletes back on board in a progressive kind of systematic and slow entry, we’ll see over the summer, I mean it’s having not only football groups, women's soccer is a fall sport obviously and volleyball, by having those athletes come back – are they able to stay safe? And then, although there are a lot of positive tests and Lisa, I think said 15% of a team – the issue is – a lot of those kids aren’t sick. So, it gives us an incredible opportunity to look at the epidemiology around this and figure out why are different groups having different results? That was as much of a plug for sport and not answering your question as I could Thom, because I do think there's a risk, I really do. But I think – if we can control it, it will be better off. I do not know the effect of having a 21-year-old take virtual college and then come back, but I surely know the effect of having teenagers in the house for three months. And I think that listening to Lisa, listening to David – slowly get them out, get them back to sport is going to really be a change. I mean, people are complaining about the phone and how teenagers and college kids are always associated with social media and their phone, and yet my 87 year old father is now onto Zoom family meeting – so I think we’ve all changed and evolved and it allows us to get back to reality in a step wise fashion. That’s why sports are important.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Kaplan and we’re just going to wrap things up here shortly, I want to go ahead and launch this poll again, we’ve had a few people drop out of the call but let’s see what everybody says and if anyone has been swayed by the comments from our experts today, so please feel free to respond to that poll, the first time we got eight responses and seven out of eight said it wasn’t fair. Dr. Neirotti, you wanted to add something to what Dr. Kaplan said about the MBA shutdown and how that really opened people’s eye to the severity of the pandemic.

Dr. Neirotti: Right, there's just two things, one is – I think David brought up the competitive outlet. Well I can tell you that video games have now become the competitive outlet for many teenagers and so you have the e-sports growth, but in terms of – you know when the MBA shutdown that was when the world woke up and said – oh my gosh! If they shut down, this is important and you saw immediately everyone else shutting down. So, I'm wondering what kind of signal it sends when they open up – again they're doing it safely but I know what an impact it made when they shut down, perhaps it’s not the best signal to send when they opened up.

Thom: Thank you Dr. Neirotti and Randy Lefko from Clay Today Sports gave us a comment in the chat that I’d love to share – when we were talking about the importance of sports as a community thing, he says – I agree that sports and community are crucial to the social fabric of areas, he mentions a couple of cases of some young athletes that his community was following and hoping that they have a chance to get drafted or become future Olympians. It’s a big deal and I think that a lot of people feel the same. Randy, thank you for sharing that.

We got 6 responses on the poll and I’ll share the results – two people said that it was okay, four still saying no. really appreciate everybody’s response, that is the first time we’ve tried doing one of these polls, I think it’s a really fascinating little picture to get a sample of our audience. Thank you everyone for responding. 

I think at this point we will wrap things up, we’re just a few minutes longer than the hour, so I want to thank Dr. Neirotti of George Washington, Jayson Kratoville at University of Albany, Dr. Kaplan at University Miami – thank you all very much for joining. 

For the media who are on the call, we’re going to have a video and transcript – if you’ve already registered, we’re going to get that info to you from that list. If you didn't register email us at [email protected] and we’ll make sure to get you on that list, and before I close I have two really important things to say – first is – Go Chelsea! And also, Wahoowa! Go Hoos go! – still raining national champs. Thank you very much everyone, stay safe! Stay healthy and good luck.