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Pro Football Hall of Fame cancels 2020 enshrinement

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has canceled its 2020 enshrinement ceremony and Hall of Fame Game due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The events, set for early August, are typically the first formal events of the new season each year for the National Football League, and the Hall of Fame Game also typically starts the league’s exhibition game schedule each year. 

This year’s edition of the Hall of Fame Game was due to be a particularly notable one featuring a matchup of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, two of the league’s most popular teams, and reached a ticket sellout in just 22 minutes back in March. 

But the public health crisis, which is increasing in intensity in many parts of the United States, left the Hall of Fame officials with essentially no choice but to move the events to 2021, including the Steelers and Cowboys playing in next year’s Hall of Fame Game. 

The institution also intends to honor its 2020 Hall of Fame inductees in a separate ceremony from one for next year’s group.

The cancellation of the Hall of Fame events also represent the first of any type the NFL has lost so far to the pandemic. The crisis made its full-scale arrival in the United States in March, during the league’s offseason. The NFL was forced to move away from plans to hold this year’s Draft in Las Vegas, Nevada, but successfully shifted that event to a virtual format. 

“The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans, and volunteers who make Enshrinement Week so special remains our top priority,” said David Baker, Hall of Fame president and chief executive. “The Hall will honor the Centennial Class of 2020 next August, along with what promises to be an equally spectacular Class of 2021, as part of a multiday celebration of football with an atmosphere that will deliver for fans ‘Twice the Fun in ’21.’ ”

The 2020 Hall of Fame class includes former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL Films co-founder Steve Sabol, among others.

The decision to shift events to next year closely mirrors one made in April by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, though that institution will hold just one combined induction ceremony in 2021. 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame also lost the 2016 Hall of Fame Game due to issues with the field conditions at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, and the 2011 edition due to the league’s lockout of the NFL Players Association that year.

This year’s cancellation will also likely change the training camp reporting dates for the Steelers and Cowboys. Since they were originally due to start the league’s entire exhibition calendar, they were originally due to start camp ahead of the rest of the league. Now, there will likely be a single start date across the entire league.