Amid a flurry of questions regarding the status of the NBA, NHL, MLB and other paused sports leagues, fans could seemingly breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the NFL season was safe from coronavirus pandemic. However, reports are now surfacing that fall football’s start date could too be in jeopardy.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman first reported that several team officials were skeptical of adhering to the NFL season schedule, noting that many believed it to be “nearly impossible” to start on time. Now, league officials are beginning to clear up confusion regarding the NFL’s response to the virus.
“In September, can we have stadiums with people in them?” an anonymous team executive told NFL.com. “I’m trying to watch what’s going on in China moving toward normalcy. But who knows?”
The executive added that the league’s offseason activities will not include any in-person interaction to heed to health experts’ social distancing advise in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. This mandate would mean teams would not gather until training camp commences, however, even that is subject to change depending on whether certain teams are restricted to gather based on individual states’ orders.
The NFL draft is perhaps the biggest offseason hurdle for the league simply regarding its nature. League officials have drastically changed the format of the draft, which will go on as planned April 23-25 albeit without any NFL prospects in attendance.
“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,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo last week. “All clubs should now be doing the necessary planning to conduct draft operations in a location outside of your facility, with a limited number of people present, and with sufficient technology resources to allow you to communicate internally, with other clubs, and with draft headquarters.”
COVID-19’s overwhelming disruption to the sports world could come with massive monetary losses if games are cancelled. The NBA – which was the first major league to halt its operation after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert contracted the virus – could face up to $500 million in lost ticket revenue if it does not resume its 2020 season. Similar impacts on the NFL season could result in huge losses, as fans spend more to attend NFL games than any other major sports league.