US President Joe Biden says sports teams are making a mistake if they ignore the science and allow fans back into stadiums at full capacity and without aggressive Covid-19 restrictions.
Biden said the Texas Rangers are not being "responsible" by allowing 100 percent capacity at Globe Life Field on Major League Baseball's opening day on Thursday, following a decision by the National Football League earlier this week to play games beginning in early September at full capacity.
"Well, that's a decision they made. I think it's a mistake," Biden said of the Rangers filling their 40,300 seat stadium. "They should listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the scientists and the experts. But I think it's not responsible."
Biden made his comments as part of an interview with US sports broadcaster ESPN which aired Wednesday night.
He also emphasized the importance of wearing masks and continuing to follow restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over 550,000 Americans so far.
The state of Texas has seen almost 50,000 people die -- more than Canada and Sweden combined.
"In terms of it being responsible [for stadiums to open at full capacity] -- you see what's happening in Europe now when they lifted the mandates. I don't know why we don't just follow the science and beat this," Biden said.
Europe has seen rising infections, with leaders discussing reimposing virus restrictions.
The Washington Nationals said this week that five players would miss Thursday's season opener against the New York Mets because of Covid-19 protocols, including one undisclosed player who tested positive.
The Nationals plan to open their stadium to 5,000 fans, at 12 percent capacity.
When asked what he would tell athletes who are reluctant to get the vaccine, Biden remarked, "I'm president of the United States and I got vaccinated. I don't have an unimportant job. Would I take the vaccine if I thought it was going to hurt me?"
He said vaccine research had been conducted that demonstrated their effectiveness, adding that the United States needed to get enough people inoculated to diminish the possibility for the virus to spread.
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Tennis players Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka, who are in Florida this week competing in a WTA tournament, have said they are reluctant to get the vaccine because of various concerns, including how fast it was rolled out.
Biden also said he is in favour of moving the July 13 MLB all-star game out of Georgia, describing the newly passed voting law in the southern state as "Jim Crow on steroids."
He said Georgia's new election law restricts access to voting for Americans.
"Imagine passing a law saying you cannot provide water or food for someone standing in line to vote. Can't do that? Come on," he said.
Biden went on to note professional athletes immense potential for social change, referring to the civil movement within the NBA that established a coalition to advance equality and social justice.
"People look to them. They're leaders," he said.
And addressed the anti-mask contingent, he said: "Some people think they are being tough guys by not wearing masks, but guess what, they are just hurting themselves and other people."
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