The 2020 National Football League Draft has become the latest major sports event in the United States to be affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The NFL will conduct and televise the player selection process for the event on April 23-25, but all planned public elements in Las Vegas have been cancelled.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority – the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the [Las Vegas] 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.”
The NFL is “exploring innovative options” for how the Draft will be conducted, per a press release.
The Las Vegas Draft was scheduled to include a stage on the water in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino fountains, with players being brought to the dais by boat for an official red carpet event. The plan also involved closing portions of the Las Vegas Strip to traffic for the three days of the Draft and constructing the main stage next to Caesars Forum.
The three-day event was due to free to the public and include the NFL Draft Experience, which would have featured games, autograph sessions, a pro shop, and special performances. At least 400,000 fans were expected to attend the festivities, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
It has already been announced that future NFL Drafts will be held in Cleveland (2021) and Kansas City (2023), opening the door for the event to be held in Las Vegas in 2022.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement: “Although Las Vegas lost this chance to shine, there will be many more opportunities to show the world just what Las Vegas is made of. Whether it be the Draft, the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl, the Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World is ready!”
The news comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that events or gatherings involving 50 people or more be called off for the next eight weeks, extending the hiatus of the professional sports industry in the US.
Elsewhere, the Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all competition until May 2, calling off clay-court tournaments in Stuttgart, Istanbul and Prague, in addition to events previously cancelled.