Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved the return of pro sports in the state of Michigan Friday, without fans in attendance. She discussed that decision -- and urged us to 'keep our guard up' against COVID-19 -- during an interview Monday on the Jamie and Stoney Show.
"We’ve been talking with the MLB commissioner, the head of NASCAR, the Pistons and the NBA as well as the NFL and Roger Goodell. It’s really important that we resume some normalcy, but do it in a safe manner," Whitmer said. "I’ve had some people say, ‘You’re gonna cancel sports.' I said, ‘C'mon, let’s keep our wits about us. We’re not going to cancel sports, but we’re going to watch it differently.’ And that’s for our safety. Maybe this is one season of doing it this way, but it’s the smart way to do it to keep the athletes safe, to keep the sports going and to give us the ability to enjoy it.
"Some people don’t know, but my first passion in life was to be a sports broadcaster, so this is something that I recognize as an important part of our culture. We want it to continue, but we’re just going to have to enjoy it differently than we have before."
MLB is prepared to be the first of the Big Four sports to return, planning for Opening Day on either July 23 or July 24. The Tigers will open Summer Camp -- spring training 2.0 -- Wednesday at Comerica Park. With so many players and team personnel arriving in Michigan from states that are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, Whitmer acknowledged there are concerns.
"Any time people are traveling, especially between states and especially coming from a state that’s having such a massive outbreak like Florida, we all have to be cautious," she said. "The MLB and the Tigers have a really thoughtful, evidence-based plan to keep people quarantined to ensure that they mitigate spread and to test all their employees as well as the athletes.
"We can navigate this, we just have to be really smart and remember this virus hasn’t changed. The only thing that’s changed is we’ve learned how to live with it better to protect ourselves, and that’s why we all have to keep our guard up. I see outbreaks happening in Michigan because people are letting their guard down. It's really important that every one of us (puts) masks on when we’re out and about, that we stay six feet apart, and remember, you’re always safer at home. That’s the best way to stay safe."
Whitmer also discussed the potential return of high school sports this fall. She said it's possible a high-contact sport like football could be moved to the spring to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
"There are some states that are considering flipping seasons, so making football and the more-contact sports in spring and bringing tennis to the fall," Whitmer said. "I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, but there are ideas and thoughts that people are bringing to the conversation to continue to have these sporting opportunities for our young people, but also to keep them safe.
"We’re going to work with the (Michigan High School Athletic) Association, we’re going to continue to listen to our best minds in public health. We just want to keep our young people safe. But we also recognize a lot of these sports create opportunities for young people to go on in life, and we don’t want them to miss those opportunities. We just have to figure out how to keep it safe."