US league commissioners to be featured in ESPN special

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, left, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred

Each of the major US sports league commissioners will appear June 15 in a two-hour ESPN primetime special on resuming competition amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“SportsCenter Special: The Return of Sports” will include National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, National Basketball Association commissioner Adam Silver, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, and Women’s National Basketball Association commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

The show will be hosted by Mike Greenberg, host of ESPN’s “Get Up,” with topics to include health and safety protocols, the economic impact of the pandemic, and playing without attending fans, among other related matters. There will also be discussion surrounding racial justice issues, which have forcefully returned to forefront of American conversation in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Each of the commissioner interviews was pre-recorded. 

“Fans will hear directly from commissioners, managers, and athletes about the decisions they’ve made and the challenges they’ve faced throughout this unprecedented time, and what the resumption of sports will look like over the coming weeks and months,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN executive vice president, event and studio production. 

Many of these same commissioners have also each been part of a federal government committee advising US President Donald Trump on measures to lift commercial and societal restrictions amid the pandemic. 

Since the formation of that committee in April, most major US pro leagues have advanced their respective measures to restart play, with the NBA, MLS, and NHL in particular each eyeing summertime restarts in dedicated, neutral-site environments with quarantine provisions. The NBA and MLS both intend to restart their campaigns at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. 

But MLB remains locked in a bitter labor dispute with the MLB Players Association, likely leaving the league to impose the length of the 2020 regular season but foregoing the opportunity for enhanced revenues through an expanded postseason.