NEW YORK – With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancelation of nearly every public gathering around the country, the National Football League will make some adjustments to their annual player draft.
It will go on at the end of April, but there won’t be any fans to take part in the festivities.
Initially planned to take place in Las Vegas from April 23-25, the league announced today that the initial spectator events surrounding the draft have been canceled. It’s unclear whether the draft will still take place somewhere in that city, but whatever is decided will be televised.
In a release today, the NFL said they are “exploring innovative options” for this televised show for the seven rounds of the draft.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority — the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” said commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement released by the league. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”
This was set to be the sixth-straight year that the NFL Draft was to be part of a bigger fan experience with the event rotating cities. Chicago held the draft in 2015 and 2016 with Philadelphia, Dallas, and Nashville hosting the event the last three years.
With no fans, the draft could return to is early roots, when it was often conducted in hotel ballrooms without players or fans taking part. ESPN began to televise the event in 1980 when it was still held during the week and it has grown ever since.