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Week In Sports: Rerouting Resources, And Planning For Fall Football


Wash your hands, latch on your masks. Ready? Time for sports.


SIMON: Pro football back in September? The NFL says you can bet on it, which you can these days. Is the NFL in touch with reality? And we'll just have to let the grass grow in Wimbledon this year I guess. We're joined by ESPN's Howard Bryant. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Good morning, my friend. Sports events are being canceled or postponed from Wimbledon to Waxahachie but the NFL continuing with its draft in a few days, as it planned to start the season on-time in September. They a bit off-key?

BRYANT: Well, it sounds like they're a bit off-key. And I think that - at first, Scott, I think my feeling had been, well, that they were making a calculation. And that calculation was that there was no reason for them to really address the coronavirus pandemic in terms of their business schedule, in terms of the calendar because I think that they figured by September - and they figure by September when the opening kickoff takes place that this will be over and that they'll be able to continue business as usual. I think it sounds a bit tone-deaf. And I felt on the one hand that that's - that that was exactly what I was feeling. But then I also felt that there was something else taking place, too, which was we do talk about sports as this sort of return to normalcy for us, as this sort of anchor for us when things are bad and that this is one sort of area where you can sort of maintain your routine.

And I wanted to hold on to that just to give them the benefit of the doubt. But then, of course, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, came out and said that any team and NFL personnel talking about or criticizing the - questioning the NFL draft on April 23 to 25 was subject to discipline. So on the other hand, it sounds as sort of cynical as it looks.

SIMON: You know, couple of grace notes this week I want to note. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, the first time I've ever uttered those words (laughter)...

BRYANT: That sounds interesting, doesn't it?

SIMON: ...Donated 10 million meals to Feeding America during the pandemic. And Robert Kraft, who owned the New England Patriots, wins Super Bowls and celebrates at massage parlors, sent his team plane to fly masks from China to the U.S. Why doesn't every team in the NFL do something like that?

BRYANT: Well, because they should. And I think that as we spoke about this a couple of weeks ago, you're looking at a question right now of citizenship. We're going to find out what kind of citizens these billionaires are. And we're going to find out as we have in the past that the - I don't know if it's really pressure but the presence of the players themselves, whether it's Roger Federer or Zion Williamson or Tom Brady, that they've been more present, and they've been more willing to lead from the sports world than the people who sign the checks. And I think that that's a bit disturbing as well.

SIMON: Wimbledon. First time the tournament's been canceled since the Second World War. There are particular reasons why Wimbledon can't postpone, aren't there?

BRYANT: I think there are plenty. And that's - one of the reasons is because the tennis calendar itself is just so cramped. I think it's the same issue that you're going to see in basketball and baseball and the rest of them. That said, it's not just a one-year issue; it's also the next year.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: So if you're looking in the other tournaments, the U.S. Open has not canceled yet. The French Open postponed, and so the U.S. Open is supposed to be played in August, September. The French Open is going to be played right after that. And so when is there time for Wimbledon? It's an outdoor tournament. There's no - you know? They don't have an alternate place. As you start to move toward that calendar, it gets a little bit cold to play tennis in October and November.

SIMON: ESPN's Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.