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Virtual NFL Draft set to bring sports fans together, says NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent

Virtual NFL Draft set to bring sports fans together, says NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent

The next class of NFL prospects will begin their professional careers starting Thursday.  

The NFL has kept the 2020 draft on schedule, but there was a very good chance of postponement amid Covid-19 coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations, admits pushing the draft back was considered.  The league has been cautious about not putting anyone at risk and making sure it adheres to the advice from medical professionals and government restrictions.

Once the lockdown started, according to Vincent, the NFL immediately began looking for ways to conduct a virtual draft. Countless meetings later - and with a certain amount of creativity - it was decided that was possible.  

“As we got closer and closer, it was like, we can do this,” Vincent said. “We can do this in a responsible and reasonable way and do some good in it with a Draft-a-Thon.”  

The three-day event will raise funds for healthcare workers and first responders of Covid-19.

With the panademic halting all plans for the on-site draft in Las Vegas, everything had to come together in one month. The virtual draft is now ready to take place. But there were big questions.  

“Everyone is under the same quarantine, so how do we produce this on-line, this streaming, this virtual version of what we would say was the throw-back draft,” Vincent said. 

“Throw back” in this case means good ‘ol phones and computers, but also incredibly modern with apps and streaming communication. The challenge lay in getting 32 teams equally equipped and 58 potential draftees all prepared from their homes with a phone and a camera set up. 

The first round usually sees 20-to-24 players in attendance. This year none will have the lasting memory of walking across the stage and shaking the Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand.  

It is something Vincent says they have accepted. The NFL’s newest crop of rookies can roll with that change. After all, they live on social media. 

Vincent knows. The former NFL cornerback sees it first hand. Both of his sons play football - Taron at Ohio State and Troy Jr at Towson.  

“The TikTok, the Instagram live, they love this stuff,” Vincent said. “This is where they live. So we’re meeting them right where they spend most of their time.”

While sitting at home does not require the same approach or attire of a typical draft, Vincent asked players if they still plan to dress up? He says many are opting to keep it causal with their families. No matter the setting he wants them to know it is a celebration of their hard work paying off.  

The 15-year NFL veteran draws upon his own experience to help navigate the players’ emotions leading into the night. Drafted No. 7 overall in 1992 by the Miami Dolphins, Vincent and Goodell hold a “Huddle Up” meeting to answer questions. Typically, this would be done on site before the draft. This year it was held last Friday through Zoom. 

“It’s a special moment, a private moment,” Vincent recalled.

Just himself, Goodell and potential first-round draftees. While unprecedented, Vincent described it as fantastic, too.  

“Looking at all the backgrounds,” Vincent described. “You got to see everybody’s faces and some are sitting on their front porch, some sitting in their library, and being able to communicate and still ask questions to the Commissioner and their expectations.”

Vincent says players are excited and still happy, but how the draft will logistically be carried out is an entirely different obstacle. Each team was given a camera set up - one for general managers and one for head coaches and, in some cases, another for the team owner. 

“There is one live feed, that from a security and competitive stand point we can monitor,” Vincent said. “The other is for the broadcast and communication with the team.” 

A mock draft was held on Monday with all 32 teams to ensure a smooth production. While it started slow, many teams said it went well. Each team was asked to make a trade, and reports back were positive. Vincent says it was another exercise to bring draft night to life. 

    “We feel very confident about our redundancy plan, so from WebEx to Microsoft Teams, to phones to conference calls, we feel very confident that we will have a productive and efficient draft,” Vincent said. 

    It won’t be flawless, but in our current reality it does offer hope and perhaps an escape — even if for just a moment. America is in pain. This is a night that can do some good.” 

    "The reality us people are looking for hope," Vincent said. "America is in a place we have not seen in a few decades.  We just hope our sport, for those that are avid fans, that maybe this gives you an alternative that day to get your minds off the alternative that we’re faced with every time we turn on the television, every time we pick up the paper."

    So Thursday is not just about the new superstars. It’s about your community, the men and women around the country supporting those that need us the most. It’s a chance to raise money for those folks while seeing what your favorite teams’ new rookie class looks like. It’s about what sports always does best: Bringing people together even when we are apart.

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    These well-known Redskins fans would be very interesting minority stakeholders

    These well-known Redskins fans would be very interesting minority stakeholders

    The Redskins' three minority owners, who reportedly make up about 40-percent of the team's ownership group, are actively trying to sell their stakes in the club.

    Now, if those three do in fact move on — which may prove difficult — there are plenty of well-known Washington fans who could prove to be interesting replacements, even if they purchase just a small slice of what the trio is looking to pass on. 

    Check out the list below for a handful of the more eye-catching names that would absolutely draw headlines. 

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    One of NASCAR's most popular drivers of all time is now working as an analyst for NBC. He's been a fan since he was nine years old and has a positive relationship with Dan Snyder. Plus, he's already used to pressure-packed Sundays.

    Matthew McConaughey

    Here's another mega-celebrity and lifelong fan of the Burgundy and Gold who's also a personal friend of Snyder's. Perhaps he'd like to add some football hardware to his already crowded trophy case.

    Kevin Durant

    Durant is one of the best ballers in the world, and with how enormous NBA contracts are as well as all the endorsements he's picked up along the way, you have to figure he has some spare cash to put toward the Redskins if he wanted to.

    Plus, becoming a part owner of an NFL team would be something he could hold over his enemies like Draymond Green and Kendrick Perkins.

    RELATED: A NAME CHANGE SEEMS IMMINENENT

    Wale

    The famous rapper just hosted some of the Redskins' virtual programming during the 2020 Draft, and he's tight with QB Dwayne Haskins. He could be next in the long line of artists/musicians who've dabbled in sports ownership.

    Taraji P. Henson

    The Hidden Figures and Empire actress' father once worked as a janitor for Washington, and she's been a supporter of the squad for quite a while. Buying into them could be a nice thing to add to her real-life empire.

    Joe Gibbs

    Gibbs isn't exactly a current pop culture icon like any of the names above, but he is a DC icon and it'd be foolish to exclude him from a list like this. Snyder has understandably revered Gibbs for essentially his whole life and confided in him often in the past.

    If Gibbs wanted to become involved with the Redskins again, you have to believe Snyder would be thrilled.  

    Alexis Ohanian

    Ohanian, who co-founded Reddit and sold it back in 2006, has been devoted to the Redskins since the late '80s. He's attended plenty of contests in his fan career. So, why not make the transition from the stadium seats to the owner's box?

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    Reports: Redskins' three minority owners attempting to sell their stakes in the franchise

    Reports: Redskins' three minority owners attempting to sell their stakes in the franchise

    The three minority owners of the Washington Redskins -- Frederick Smith, Robert Rothman, and Dwight Schar -- are trying to sell their stake in the team, according to a report from the Washington Post on Sunday night. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio first reported Sunday afternoon that Smith and Schar wanted to sell.

    The three men have reportedly hired a banking firm to help the search for potential buyers, but according to Florio they have not had much luck. The trio is "not happy being a partner" to Redskins majority owner Dan Snyder, according to the Post.

    Smith, Rothman and Schar are Washington's lone minority partners and make up about 40-percent of the franchise's ownership group, according to the Post. The three minority owners are the only members of Washington's ownership group outside of Snyder, along with his sister and his mother.

    Smith is the CEO and founder of FedEx, one of Washington's largest corporate sponsors. FedEx currently holds the naming rights to Washington's home stadium, FedEx Field, through 2025. The stadium lease expires in 2027.  

    This past Thursday, FedEx became one of the first major corporate sponsors of the Redskins to publicly place pressure on the franchise to change its name. Other companies such as Nike, which removed all Redskins' products from its website, along with Bank of America and PepsiCo followed shortly after.

    In response, the Redskins released a statement on Friday that the team is undergoing a "thorough review" of the team's name. All signs point toward an inevitable change. New head coach Ron Rivera has said that he hopes the name is changed prior to the 2020 season, which begins in September.

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