An epidemiologist specializing in sports medicine says there's an honest debate over whether US-based leagues should come back in 2020 -- but warns that allowing fans into stadiums would be a huge mistake.
Large gatherings of spectators is a recipe for further surges in coronavirus cases at a time when the US is already struggling to contain the pandemic compared to countries that started seeing outbreaks around the same time, Zachary Binney told hosts Tony Gwynn Jr. and Chris Ello on 97.3 The Game in San Diego on Tuesday.
"Every step that we take back toward normality has a risk and a benefit associated with it," Binney said. "And the benefits need to outweigh the risks.
"With sports, if you bring them back without fans, I think there's a lot of real arguments for psychological and economic benefits, and if you have the right plan, I think you can keep the risk to a reasonable level."
But permitting fans into arenas and ballparks now would be a colossal mistake, he added.
"The Indy 500 is talking about trying to run the race in August at 50 percent capacity with 175,000 people. I do not have words to express what a stupid idea that is in the middle of a pandemic."
Binney, a writer for Football Outsiders and an incoming assistant professor at Emory University, says fans should beware the motives of owners reliant on ticket sales and game-day purchases for revenues.
"When you start talking about fans, you're just talking about putting money in the pockets of owners and stadium authorities, and you're creating a massive public health threat.
"The risk and benefits do not line up for me."
Earlier this week, White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested it would be easier for baseball to safely play a season than football or basketball, given the natural spacing measures as part of the game.