Biden says pro sports leagues 'probably' can't play without COVID-19 vaccine

Bart Jansen

Former Vice President Joe Biden voiced skepticism Tuesday about the country having major league sports until a vaccine is developed for COVID-19 or until the teams can follow scientific recommendations for social distancing and quarantining.

“It seems to me that it’s probably not going to be able to happen based on what the leagues themselves are saying," Biden said. "You have the Marlins saying, ‘We can’t do it.'"

His comments came in response to a question at a news conference about the Florida Marlins suspending their season after 15 players and two staffers tested positive for the virus. The tests came after playing only three games in a virus-shortened season.

Major League Baseball attempted to field a shortened season by having teams travel less and take other precautions. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday the season could be played safely. But the league suspended the team's entire season Tuesday as a precaution.

"The health and safety protocols were designed with a challenging circumstance like the one facing the Marlins in mind," the league said in a statement.

A member of the Miami Marlins training staff cleans the rails of the dugout before a simulated game at Marlins Park earlier this month.

Biden acknowledged that other sports models might work "a little bit," such as the National Basketball Association locating all games in Orlando, Fla., if they reduce travel and sequester in one place. But he said for traveling teams, players should quarantine for 12 days after visiting other states.

“It seems to me that when you have to travel, when you have to be in hotel rooms or places that are different than you’ve been the day before, when you’re in a position where you’re going into an area where there is a high concentration of the spread of COVID, all those things add up to a real problem," Biden said. "We’re not going to really overcome that until we follow the science and get a vaccine."

Biden's comments come in stark contrast to President Donald Trump, who has encouraged a return to live sports and a reopening of the economy.

Private drugmakers are working with governments around the world to develop a vaccine. Scientists say a vaccine is unlikely to be widely available until at least the end of the year.

Biden noted that National Football League players illustrate concerns with playing amid the pandemic by balking at playing for $8 million to $10 million because of the risk.

“You’ve got to listen,” Biden said.