The NFL has announced that it will be moving toward a fully virtual draft in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The announcement of the virtual draft, which is set to be held from April 23 to April 25, was made by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a memo sent to teams earlier this week, People reports.
In response to the virus, teams have also closed all of their facilities, which makes it almost impossible to hold the draft in a public setting as they have in previous years. General managers and owners will have to participate in the draft from their homes and are explicitly banned from gathering in a group during the draft.
"Clubs have been advised to prepare to conduct the 2020 draft entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format, with club personnel in separate locations and able to communicate with one another and Draft headquarters by phone or internet," Goodell writes in the memo, which was also posted to the NFL website.The memo also said that conducting the draft remotely would allow all NFL personnel to comply with the directives that have been put in place by the federal government as well as various state and local governments.
"After consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face," Goodell continued.
The draft was initially set to place in Las Vegas, where the Oakland Raiders just moved. Before this decision was announced, ESPN reports that general managers had been pushing to delay the draft instead of moving toward a virtual process. Team owners, on the other hand, believed that the event needed to move forward on schedule.
In his memo, Goodell said that the league was facing unprecedented circumstances as a result of the pandemic. He also highlighted the contributions that healthcare workers and first responders had made to ensure that everyone remained as safe and healthy as possible and said that the situation they were in required flexibility and openness to change.
The virtual draft will be broadcast on ESPN, and the NFL is reportedly planning to run a telethon alongside the draft which will benefit those who have been impacted by the virus. Last week, the NFL said that it planned to move forward with its season, which starts in September, as planned, according to The Guardian.