Last Thursday, as the stock market was on the way to losing nearly 2,400 points—its biggest single-day plunge since the 1987 Black Monday crash—Donald Trump was worrying about the fate of the football season. NFL players aren’t scheduled to report to training camp for months, but according to a source, Trump feared that the league might preemptively announce it was following the NBA and NHL and suspend or delay operations due to the coronavirus.
So Trump called NFL owners to see if any action was on the horizon. “Trump begged them not to cancel the season,” a source briefed on the call said.
Trump’s concern for the NFL’s well-being was a stark reversal given that he spent the first two years of his presidency attacking the league and its kneeling players. It reflected Trump’s magical thinking that he could manage the coronavirus pandemic by convincing people life would remain normal and sports would be played. (Last week, Trump also spoke with Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White and advised him not to cancel UFC events.)
“Trump thinks this is a media problem,” a Republican close to the White House told me. Treating COVID-19 as a public-relations crisis put Trump at odds with the medical community, including the White House’s chief coronavirus adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. During an interview on Meet the Press this weekend, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases urged the United States to move toward a national lockdown similar to the actions taken by Italy and Spain. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting,” Fauci said.
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