Report: 2020 NFL Draft No Longer Being Held in Las Vegas

Jesse Pantuosco
March 22, 2020 - 3:10 pm

With the spread of coronavirus and its cultural effects creating a new reality, the NFL has made the drastic but necessary measure to move next month’s draft to a new location. As of now, the draft is still scheduled for April 23-25, though the event will no longer be held in Las Vegas. Per Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, the league is preparing to stage the draft in a “studio setting” interspersed with cut-ins from various team headquarters.

The NFL had already announced there would be no spectators at this year’s event, but with the Vegas strip all but abandoned in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, commissioner Roger Goodell elected to change course. “Planning for the Draft is a good example of how we need to think differently, embrace technology and collaborate,” Goodell wrote in a memo distributed to league employees last week. “While there have been changes to the way we work and some of our plans, we have an unwavering commitment to upholding the NFL’s legacy of unifying and lifting the spirit of America and bringing out the best in our fans and in our communities around the world.”

The draft would have been a huge opportunity for the league to showcase its newest market (the Raiders will call Vegas their home in 2020), but with over 300,000 confirmed cases worldwide and almost 400 corona-related deaths in the United States alone, holding the draft in Sin City was no longer feasible. It would have been quite a spectacle too with players arriving to the podium via boat, traveling the length of the iconic Bellagio fountain to hear their names called by Goodell. Like most of the world’s major cities, Las Vegas has fallen into an unprecedented silence with casinos shutting their doors until further notice.

The NFL has had to adjust on the fly with coronavirus continuing to alter our societal landscape. Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints tested positive for COVID-19 last week, joining other prominent sports figures including NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell in contracting the illness. Free agency went on as scheduled, though the deadline for assigning the franchise tag was delayed by several days. With travel restrictions in effect, top prospects for the upcoming draft haven’t been able to visit with interested teams while many free agents (Tom Brady among them) have had to explore workarounds for getting physicals. With demand for COVID-19 tests far outweighing our current supply, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has lent a helping hand by allowing the National Guard to use the Fed Ex Field parking lot as a screening site.

It will be strange seeing Goodell announce names to an empty room (and not getting booed for once) next month—last year’s draft in Nashville drew a combined 600,000 attendees. But with the coronavirus refusing to let up, it’s what’s necessary right now.

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