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NFL shouldn’t delay the inevitable regarding league meetings, draft

As other sports leagues and organizations make and implement concrete plans for ensuring the kind of social distancing that will help stop the spread of COVID-19, the NFL seems to have been caught flat-footed.

Yes, the league postponed its Consumer Products Summit, but only because a critical mass of participants said they weren’t going. The next major event for the league comes in 18 days, when the annual league meetings open in Florida. There’s a growing sense in league circles that cancellation is more a matter of when than if, with the sessions occurring through conference calls and/or video link. Even if the meetings proceed, don’t be surprised if they are dramatically scaled back, with only the essential meetings happening and little if any media access.

But that’s small potatoes in comparison to the draft. The NFL’s annual offseason centerpiece, arguably the second biggest event of the year behind the Super Bowl, is scheduled for Las Vegas in only 43 days. Given that the nation currently seems to be in the very early days of dealing with an inevitable coast-to-coast outbreak, it’s hard to imagine the draft proceeding as scheduled.

It will definitely happen, but without the sweeping images of thousands of fans crammed together on the strip. Either they won’t show up, or the powers-that-be will realize that it’s irresponsible to allow them to. Which will likely compel the league to move the draft to a more intimate venue, with no fans present.

Regardless, at a time when the NFL “closely monitors” the coronavirus situation, it seems like the time for something more than monitoring has come. If nothing else, a clear and unequivocal statement from the NFL regarding changes that seem to be inevitable at this point would send a powerful message to a highly impressionable public that this is a very serious situation, and that everyone should treat it that way.