N.F.L. Changes Draft to TV-Only Event
The N.F.L. has canceled plans to hold its draft in late April in Las Vegas, and will now hold the three-day event only on television, the latest casualty of the restrictions designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
The event, which will still be held April 23 to 25, will be broadcast on television. “The N.F.L. is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will provide that information as it becomes available,” the league said in a statement. “Public N.F.L. draft events in Las Vegas next month will not take place.”
The move came after mounting skepticism that the N.F.L. would be able to host an event that would draw tens of thousands of fans to the Strip in Las Vegas, even as nearly every other sports league and organization had shut down.
The draft, and the spectacle of first-round draft picks becoming newly minted millionaires on national television and in front of throngs of fans, is one of the N.F.L.’s marquee events. This year’s version was to be hosted by the Las Vegas Raiders, who will open a $1.9 billion stadium this season and is scheduled to play its first games in Nevada in September after moving from Oakland, Calif.
But new guidance announced on Sunday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people for the next eight weeks made the possibility of having the draft with fans in attendance nearly impossible.
Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, said the decision to cancel the live event was made “in consideration of current information related to Covid-19 and guidance from medical experts such as the C.D.C., and in coordination with public authorities in Nevada and the City of Las Vegas.”
The Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, expressed his support for the decision in a statement. “Health and safety has always been our top priority, so despite it being a major disappointment, this was the right decision,” he said.
On Sunday, MGM Resorts International, which operates some of the largest and most famous casinos and hotels in Las Vegas, said it would shut down until further notice. The draft was going to be held at some MGM properties, including the famed fountains in front of the Bellagio hotel. The company said it would not take reservations before May 1.
Wynn Resorts said it would close its hotels in Las Vegas for two weeks.
In recent years, the N.F.L. has increased the size and scale of the draft. For decades, it was held in Midtown Manhattan at Radio City Music Hall, with a short red carpet event for high-profile players arriving on the first night. The league moved the draft to Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and Nashville since then, adding ancillary events that have attracted tens of thousands of fans in festival-like settings.
Three networks — ESPN, the NFL Network and Fox Sports — now broadcast the proceedings, and more than 2,000 media passes are issued in some years.
This year’s event was supposed to be even more extravagant, partly because it coincides with the arrival of a new team in Las Vegas, and partly because of the city’s reputation for glitz and partying.
The N.F.L. has ways of re-creating the draft as a made-for-television event, including using the N.F.L. Network studios.