2020 NFL Draft to Proceed as Planned; Public Events Canceled amid Coronavirus

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2020

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers a question during a news conference for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The 2020 NFL draft will take place without fans April 23-25 in Las Vegas because of concerns over the coronavirus.

The NFL announced Monday that public draft events have been canceled, but teams will still select players as scheduled:

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The news represents the latest scheduling change as a result of COVID-19, which has caused 41 deaths out of 1,678 confirmed cases in the United States, according to CNN.com. There have been more than 160,000 cases of the respiratory disease worldwide, leading to over 6,000 deaths.

The global pandemic has created massive effects throughout sports, as many leagues have suspended or canceled events to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

In the United States, the NBA suspended its 2019-20 season for at least 30 days after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the disease. The NHL followed suit by pausing its regular season, while the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships, including the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments.

MLB also delayed the start of its regular season for two weeks along with canceling its remaining spring training games.

The NFL has been able to avoid such drastic moves since it is in the offseason, but the league did cancel its annual meeting initially scheduled for March 29-April 1 in Palm Beach, Florida.

"This decision was made consistent with the league's primary concern to protect the health of club and league employees and the public while enabling the league to continue with its essential business operations," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

The concerns have now caused changes to the NFL draft, which had become a crowded fan event in recent years.

After the draft was held at smaller venues in New York City for decades, the location began to rotate in 2015, and outdoor venues hosted the event starting in 2017. The 2019 draft hosted a reported 600,000 fans in Nashville, Tennessee, setting an attendance record across the three-day event, per Matthew Leimkuehler of the Tennessean.

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis initially expected 750,000 fans to attend the 2020 version in Las Vegas, according to Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The NFL will now have to alter its plans as teams try to determine the futures of hundreds of incoming players.