President Donald Trump said he thinks college football would be making a "tragic mistake" if the sport is not played this fall.
Appearing Tuesday morning on Fox Sports Radio, Trump cited the youth and overall health of college players as factors that will help them avoid the most serious symptoms of the coronavirus.
"These football players are very young, strong people, and physically, I mean they're physically in extraordinary shape," Trump said in the interview. "So they're not going to have a problem, you're not going to see people, you know, could there be? Could it happen? But I doubt it.
"So I think football is making a tragic mistake," Trump later added.
He seemed in favor of the sport being played with fans in the stands, but noted, "I'm not sure college football can do it, but we'll have to see."
Trump's comments came before the Big Ten and Pac-12 became the first Power 5 conferences to postpone their fall football seasons.
The United States recorded fewer than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and Monday but still has been the hardest-hit country, with more than 5 million diagnosed cases and at least 163,533 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Hospitalization rates for people between 18 and 29 years old are 56 per 100,000, compared with 281 per 100,000 people between ages 65 and 74. People in their 20s are less likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight of every 10 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been among adults 65 and older, according to the CDC.
But young people can get the disease. More than 97,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks of July, according to numbers from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. As of Aug. 6, there were more than 380,000 confirmed cases in children, according to the report. That's less than 8% of the cases nationwide.
Trump also talked about his desire to see the NFL season begin, but with a caveat that's not related to the global pandemic.
"Well, they want to open and they want to open badly, and they've been working with government. I would say this: If they don't stand for that national anthem, I hope they don't open," Trump said. "But other than that, I'd love to see them open and we're doing everything possible for getting them open. They can protest in other ways. They shouldn't protest our flag or our country."
Trump's opposition to players protesting during the playing of the national anthem led him to criticize the NBA, which restarted its season in a bubble setting.
"I think it's been horrible for basketball," Trump said. "Look at the basketball ratings. They're down to very low numbers. Very, very low numbers. People are angry about it. They don't realize that, they don't want, they have enough politics with guys like me. They don't need more as they're driving down, going up for the shot. They don't need it. And there was a nastiness about the NBA the way it was done too.
"So I think that the NBA is in trouble -- I think it's in big trouble, bigger trouble than they understand. And frankly, ice hockey, which is doing very well, they didn't do that, they respected the mores, they respected what they're supposed to be doing. And they're actually doing very well as I understand it."
According to the NBA, its games have helped ABC, ESPN and TNT win prime-time ratings each night among the key demographic of 18- to 49-year-old males. The NBA's game between the LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers was the most-viewed sports program since the league restarted on July 30, and eight of the 10 most-viewed prime-time sports programs have been NBA games during that time.
In addition to his domestic issues with the NBA, Trump also voiced his displeasure with the league's relationship with China.
"The way [the NBA] catered to China, the way they bowed to China, it's a disgrace, frankly," Trump said. "And they make a lot more money here than they do from China. But we have a system that allows you to disrespect your system. And that's too bad for them, too bad for them they don't appreciate what they have here."
Trump in the past has drawn strong criticism from NBA players, and he took a shot at them in his Tuesday remarks, calling some of his detractors "very nasty, very, very nasty and frankly very dumb."
One of the loudest voices against Trump from within the NBA has been that of LeBron James. Though Trump didn't mention James, he was asked whether he thought the Lakers star was better than Michael Jordan.
"Well, I've seen them both. Michael Jordan is [the better player]," Trump said. "Plus, he wasn't political, so people liked him better."