Trump backs off NFL letter claim, Debate Commission says conflicts are normal

The conspiracy to hide the 2016 presidential debates from the eye of the public by matching them up against NFL games is probably not actually a thing outside of Donald Trump's head, and the Commission for Presidential Debates (CPD) confirmed as much Sunday.

Trump, the Republican nominee, did an interview Sunday with ABC News' "This Week" that drew attention because Trump complained about two debates being scheduled against primetime NFL games.

The CPD issued a statement Sunday refuting the assertion, pointing out it's "impossible to avoid all sporting events" and noting there are quite a few -- roughly 1,000 -- NFL games during a four-year stretch.

The full statement provided to CBS Sports:

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) started working more than 18 months ago to identify religious and federal holidays, baseball league playoff games, NFL games, and other events in order to select the best nights for the 2016 debates. It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles. A debate has never been rescheduled as a result.

As a point of reference, in a four-year period, there are four general election debates (three presidential and one vice presidential), and approximately 1,000 NFL games.

The CPD selects the debate dates a year in advance in order for the television networks to have maximum lead time and predictability in scheduling these extremely important civic education forums. The CPD believes the dates for the 2016 debates will serve the American public well.

Trying to schedule a large-scale public event in the fall, while also avoiding conflicts with major sporting events is nearly impossible.

There are tons of MLB playoff games going on, in all kinds of different cities, and there are NFL games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday. You can't just toss the presidential debates on a Wednesday because of football.

Trump also backed off his stance claiming he received a letter from the NFL lamenting the scheduling issues, with a "Trump campaign source" telling ABC News the following:

"Mr. Trump was made aware of the conflicting dates by a source close to the league. It's unfortunate that millions of voters will be disenfranchised by these chosen dates."

There will undoubtedly be lots of people who choose to watch football over watching Hillary Clinton and Trump debate. But in 2016, there is plenty of opportunity to watch multiple things, to DVR a game or a debate, or to simply watch highlights that are repeated non-stop for the next several days.

The debate may hurt the NFL ratings and vice versa, but the scheduling conflict is unlikely to have a major impact on millions of Americans' voting decisions.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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