The NFL draft is back to being an in-person event. The league announced plans Monday for a live event in downtown Cleveland for the draft April 29 to May 1. Fans and a “select number” of draft-eligible players will attend.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce teams’ selections from the draft stage in Cleveland, league spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote on Twitter, adding: “Bring the boos.”
The NFL also said that teams’ coaches, general managers and others involved in the selection process will be permitted to gather in a draft room, either at teams’ facilities or elsewhere, with proper coronavirus protocols in place.
Last year’s NFL draft was conducted entirely virtually amid the pandemic. The live event scheduled to be held in Las Vegas was canceled. Coaches and GMs worked from home remotely. Goodell announced teams’ picks from his basement.
That draft broadcast drew praise afterward, and the NFL said Monday it will incorporate some of the elements of last year’s event into this year’s draft broadcast by having additional players participate remotely from their homes. The draft is to be televised by ESPN, ABC and the league-owned NFL Network.
The NFL did not specify in its announcement how many fans will be permitted to attend the live event in Cleveland. The league said that those fans chosen by teams for “inner circle” seats near the main draft stage will have to have been fully vaccinated. Other fans in attendance will be required to wear masks and adhere to distancing measures, the NFL said.
“We’re not at a point where we are able to define an exact number [of fans],” Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events, said during a conference call with reporters. “And that’s really because we continue to work with the city of Cleveland, the public health authorities and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and our doctors on landing what that number is. Obviously we want to maximize the number of fans who can be part of this free outdoor event safely.”
League officials spoke of this year’s draft being a sizable public event.
“We are looking to reflect where society is today,” O’Reilly said, “which is having all the right protocols in place and the right safety measures and pulling forward a lot of those virtual elements [from last year’s draft] that were really powerful but, again, point ahead to where we’re all going and showing that we can effectively and safely produce and bring people together for a large-scale event.”