On Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo to all 32 teams announcing plans for the league to hold a virtual draft. The NFL had scheduled its live, in-person player selection draft for Las Vegas April 23-25. The response to the coronavirus pandemic has forced the league to change its plans.
Goodell cited the “stay-at-home” orders issued by the government as a reason for the facilities to remain closed, which include every NFL team’s community. The league announced it will reopen facilities “when it is safe to do so” based on medical and public health advice, and in compliance with government mandates. It was decided last month that the 2020 NFL Draft would not be held in Las Vegas.
“Our staff will carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in several locations outside of our offices,” he said. “We cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the various needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face.”
The league announced that its Manhattan offices would close on March 13, and that all off-season activities would take a hiatus starting March 26. The pandemic has thrown professional and collegiate sports into varying degrees of uncertainty as leaders around the globe debate when to return to normal societal function.
President Trump hosted a conference call on Saturday to discuss timetables for sports to return to some sort of competition in the coming months. The NFL has a bit of a dead period after the draft, but they must consider whether to hold voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory mini-camps in the spring, along with training camps starting at the end of July.
While the facilities remain closed, the league is still conducting a plan how to proceed offseason workout activities. NFL coaches won’t be allowed to communicate with players via videoconferencing at the moment, as phase one of voluntary offseason workouts were delayed a week. The five teams with new head coaches were scheduled to start their offseason workout programs Monday.
After the Saturday conference call with sports commissioners, at least one governor spoke out against starting the NFL season on time. California is home to three NFL teams, and Governor Gavin Newsom expressed skepticism that the season could start as hoped:
During a Saturday press conference, California Governor Gavin Newsom stated that he does not expect normal NFL or college football games to be played in front of full stadiums in the state of California later in the year.
“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia where they opening up certain businesses and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.”
The NFL has conducted its player selection draft every year since 1936. The format of the draft has changed significantly since its inception. It has become appointment viewing for hardcore football fans over the past decade. Goodell expressed confidence in his memo that the draft can still proceed successfully, saying, “Our understanding is that many clubs are already well advanced in preparing for a virtual draft and we are confident that all clubs can take the necessary steps to make the 2020 draft a successful event.”
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.