Kemp an ‘optimist’ about college football, pro sports restarting this year

Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press briefing to update on COVID-19 at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press briefing to update on COVID-19 at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM

Gov. Brian Kemp said he’s optimistic that college and pro sports can resume this year, and added he’s talked with University of Georgia president Jere Morehead and coach Kirby Smart about a possible return of football between the hedges in the fall.

The governor, a die-hard Bulldog fan, told The Paul Finebaum Show on Wednesday that it's too early to tell whether Georgia's season opening game against Virginia on Labor Day will open before a "packed house or a sparse crowd or no crowd at all."

“I know everybody wants to have a crowd there,” Kemp said of the game. “I would urge people to continue to follow the guidance so we can drive these numbers down so that we can do that.”

Listen to Gov. Kemp on Paul Finebaum Show

Kemp plans a Thursday press conference to detail efforts to prepare for increased crowds at parks and beaches over Memorial Day weekend. He also could issue more guidelines to allow shuttered bars, nightclubs and live music venues to reopen.

In the interview, Kemp said he’s discussed plans with Braves and Falcons officials, along with Augusta National Golf Club executives, about how to resume sporting events while keeping crowds safe from exposure to the disease.

The NCAA Council on Wednesday voted to allow college athletes to return to campus June 1, and SEC presidents are expected to approve a measure on Friday to allow football and basketball players train at school facilities over the summer.

Kemp said fans can expect a “new norm” when they return to sports stadiums.

“I’m reserving judgment now, but believe me: I’m an optimist, and I want to see that happen if it’s at all possible. We’ll try to be working with folks to do that if it makes sense from a public health standpoint.”

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