One year ago, the NFL Draft would have been making news by this month. Today, the news is delivered continuously but things are a little bit different. Instead of reports about the player draft—as they should be about— we get controversies such as Roger Goodell’s refusal to call off the draft.
It’s so bizarre to think that most people have been pushing for the delay of the draft. However, the world is in a tough situation at the moment as nations tackle the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe.
People are taking cautionary measures to cut down the risks of the novel coronavirus’ further spread. Schools and establishments are shut down while most businesses are forced to work at home. The sports world took a hit as well as a majority of the sports league around the world are either postponed indefinitely or cancelled entirely.
One major sports league was spared of massive damage though. It is the NFL which is currently out of the season. Still, it does not mean that the current health crisis did not have an effect on the league.
The NFL’s annual owner meeting has been called off while team scouts are pulled off the road. Furthermore, team practice and any other organized team activities (OTAs) are cancelled indefinitely. However, it seems as if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans in putting a stop, temporary or not, to any activity or event more than that.
Last week, Goodell publicly addressed the situation of the NFL Draft, extinguishing the thought of its postponement or cancellation. He even sent a memo to the teams about his decision despite a majority of people voting for any league activities to be put on hold.
‘Everyone recognizes that public health conditions are highly uncertain and there is no assurance that we can select a different date and be confident that conditions will be significantly more favorable than they are today’, Goodell wrote in the memo. ‘I also believe that the Draft can serve a very positive purpose for our clubs, our fans, and the country at large, and many of you have agreed. Because of the unique circumstances in our country today, the 2020 Draft will obviously need to be conducted in a different way’.
‘Already, we have cancelled all public events, we will not be bringing prospects and their families to the Draft, and the Draft itself will be conducted and televised in a way that reflects current conditions’, he added. ‘Our staff is certainly mindful of the operational issues this presents, and our top priority is putting in place procedures that allow all clubs to operate on a level playing field so that the Draft is conducted in a way that is competitively fair to all clubs’.
This means that the NFL will proceed to conduct its draft in late April with a new format that can even involve teams into making their selections from locations outside of their team headquarters. Aside from this revision, the rest of the scheduled events in the offseason calendar are up in the air.
However, it seems that Goodell has made a move that no one wanted. His decision was met with unanimous opposition. The NFL’s General Manager subcommittee has strongly disapproved of the pushing through with the player drafting but Goodell seemed to have made a threat against any opinion about it in the memo he released.
This is because a part of the memo read, ‘Public discussion of issues relating to the draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action’.
This, of course, met further criticism. An unnamed NFL general manager was reported to asking, ‘Whatever happened to freedom of speech?’
Of course, they do have a point with their question.
Moreover, it should not even be up for debate on whether or not the NFL continues on with its offseason activities. The crisis that the world is tackling right now is on a massive scale. Businesses and any other groups have suffered from it but it is for the good of the public health.
Leagues like the NBA have understood the graveness of the situation so they made decisions accordingly. Goodell needs to put the safety and wellbeing of his community first. After all, our current situation is far beyond sports.
Offseason workouts and other OTAs have been called off indefinitely. Surely, the NFL can take it the next step further and ultimately postpone the draft. With no immediate team activities in the future, Goodell should not rush to get the players drafted and into the team’s systems.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? Is it that bad for the season to be moved a bit than scheduled? Other sports leagues have taken bigger damage than the NFL. It’s understandable that these leagues will also suffer in the financial aspect but, given the situation right now, there’s nothing much that these leagues can do but accept it as well as take care of its community.
With more or less four weeks to go before the night of the first round, general managers as well as other front office staff still have the time to put some pressure on the NFL commissioner into calling off any events of the league in this difficult time.
Goodell may not have exactly been flexible in the past but he needs to reconsider the decisions he has made. People are at risk here. Lives are on the line as the cases of coronavirus-infected people steadily rise in the United States. The NFL should focus on the bigger picture here, even if it means that future games should be played in empty stadiums or ultimately be called off.
That said, like the other sports fans across the world, NFL fans should brace themselves for the possibility of having no means of getting any sports entertainment for a while. It goes without saying that there are far bigger concerns out there due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All we can do is stay at home and hope for the best until the situation clears out.