By Wide Margin, Public Thinks Medical Experts Should Decide Start of NFL Season, Not Trump

South Orange NJ, April 13, 2020 — By 60 percent to 36 percent, the nation thinks President Trump’s call to league commissioners last weekend (reported by ESPN) expressing a belief that the NFL season should open on time was inappropriate.

Only 18 percent think the President or state governors should have the responsibility to resume play, while 61 percent say the responsibility should rest with medical experts.

On the question of responsibility to resume play, only seven percent thought it should be the President; 11 percent state governors.  Nineteen percent said it should be left up to the NFL.

These were the results of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted last week among 762 Americans across the country on both landlines and cellphones.  The Poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent.

Asked about the federal government’s reaction to the coronavirus, 55 percent felt it was not strong enough, with only 38 percent calling it appropriate, and six percent excessive.  Asked who has better communicated with the public about the virus, only 12 percent cited the federal government, with 38 percent saying state governments, and an additional 37 percent saying both.  Twelve percent said neither.

Among those who identified themselves as sports fans, the numbers were approximately the same.

Should Football Open on Time if Training Season Is Limited

By 46 percent to 36 percent, the public feels the NFL season should not open on time (which would be September 10), and by 77-20 percent, the public feels the seasons for both college and pro football should be delayed if the players have not had enough time to get in shape.

Did NBA Shutdown Help Awaken Government Actions?

Sixty-two percent of the nation thought that the cancellation of sports seasons, which began with the NBA, played a role in getting government officials to start taking the coronavirus more seriously.

“Americans want the health professionals to say when the time is right for sports to return,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll, which is sponsored by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business.  “And clearly, they feel that the federal government has not communicated well with the public, with the governors left to deliver mixed messages absent a unified national plan.  The 38 percent who feel President Trump’s reaction to the virus is appropriate is consistent with his base support since he took office.”

About the poll:

This poll was conducted by telephone April 6-8 among adults in the United States. The Seton Hall Sports Poll is conducted by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones.  The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been conducted regularly since 2006.Recently chosen for inclusion in iPoll by Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, its findings have been published everywhere from USA Today, ESPN, The New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and Reuters to Fox News and most points in between.

Media: Media: Marty Appel,;
Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall, 908-447-3034

The results:

  1. Do you think the federal government’s reaction to the coronavirus has been excessive, appropriate or not strong enough?


1 – Excessive                                           6%

2 – Appropriate                          38

3 – Not strong enough              55

4 – Don’t know/No opinion        2


  1. Which do you think has done a better job of communicating about Coronavirus, the federal government, your state government or have they both done a good job?


1 – Federal government            12

2 – State government                         38

3 – Both                                                37

4 – Neither                                           12

5 – Don’t know/No opinion                 2

  1. Knowing what you know about the coronavirus, do you think the NFL should open the season on time in September of 2020?

1 – Yes                                                  36

2 – No                                       46

3 – Don’t know/No opinion   18


  1. ESPN reports that President Trump, in a conference call with professional major league commissioners last Saturday said he believes the NFL season should start on time and he hopes to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August. Based on current medical guidance on coronavirus do you think it’s appropriate or inappropriate for the President to make such a statement?

1 – Appropriate                        36

2 – Inappropriate                                  60

3 – Don’t know/No opinion                    4

  1. The Governor of California responded to the President’s comment about starting the NFL season on time by saying “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.” Who do you think should have the responsibility for resuming play in September, the President, state Governors, the NFL or medical experts?

1 – President                                           7

2 – State Governors                  11

3 – NFL                                         19

4 – Medical experts                    61

5 – Don’t know/No opinion         1


  1. If college and pro football players have a shorter period to get in shape for the season than they have in the past, should the beginning of the football season be delayed to protect players’ safety?

1 – Yes                                                  77

2 – No                                       20

3 – Don’t know/No opinion     3

  1. The NBA shut down play very early on because of the pandemic. Do you think sports leagues cancelling seasons played a role in government officials beginning to take the coronavirus more seriously?

1 – Yes                                                  62

2 – No                                       30

3 – Don’t know                           8

8. How closely would you say you follow sports, very closely, closely, not closely or not at all?


1 – Very closely                                    17

2 – Closely                                 37

3 – Not closely                           26

4 – Not at all                               20