Fans at CenturyLink Field cheer at the start of an NFL game between the Seahawks and Bengals on Sept. 8, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Fans at CenturyLink Field cheer at the start of an NFL game between the Seahawks and Bengals on Sept. 8, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Gov. Inslee: ‘I’d bet we’re going to have football in the fall’

But the governor of Washington cautions that many things have to happen to make playing sports a reality.

By Gregg Bell / The News Tribune

The governor of Washington thinks odds are in favor of the Seattle Seahawks, University of Washington, Washington State and high school teams playing football this fall.

But Gov. Jay Inslee cautioned the coronavirus pandemic is so far from being under control that he has no true read on what life will look like in our state in the next four-to-six months, let alone the future appropriateness of sporting events.

Asked by KJR-AM radio hosts Dave Mahler and Dick Fain in Seattle the chances football will be played at the NFL Seahawks’ home of CenturyLink Field in Seattle and at stadiums throughout Washington beginning in September, Inslee said: “It is a possibility.

“Right now, if I had a dollar to bet I’d bet that we’re going to have football in the fall.”

Then the governor immediately added: “But the virus gets a vote on this, and we’ve got to make decisions to save lives.”

Inslee has been praised nationally for his measures of social distancing and shutting down businesses in early March, when Washington was the state first and hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. National medical and public-health officials have credited Inslee’s decisions for saving hundreds if not thousands of lives, and of “flattening the curve” of virus cases in Washington.

The University of Washington was the first major university in the United States to close in-class learning because of the coronavirus. In mid-March, Inslee closed all public and private kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools in the state. He eventually closed all K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year, until at least the start of the 2020-21 academic calendar. That’s tentatively scheduled to begin in early September.

So is football season.

A number of football conference officials nationwide told Vice President Mike Pence this week they don’t see college football beginning play until after students are back on campus and attending classes. Right now, no one knows when that will happen.

“Our players are students. If we’re not in college, we’re not having contests,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who was on the call, told CBS Sports.

Inslee announced Thursday in a press conference the state will need to clear two “gates” before the state’s economy can restart toward some path of normalcy. One is 14 consecutive days of the state’s infection rate falling. The other is the widespread availability of still-limited testing for COVID-19.

“We are not to the first gate,” Inslee said.

Many public-health and government officials believe it’s not likely sporting events will be played in front of 50,000-80,000 fans packed into stadiums until effective, widespread testing and herd immunity from a mass of the population carrying the virus are realities in our state and country.

Inslee told KJR if football does play this fall it could be in an unrecognizable way, because of social distancing.

“(It) may be different,” Inslee said. “We maybe have only a quarter of the people in the stands, for instance.

“But you have to realize these are decisions we can’t make now. I’d love to be able to look in the crystal ball to answer those.”

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