I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. Power five conferences are canceling basketball tournaments, the NCAA tournament will be played without fans in the stands (if it’s even played), the NBA has suspended play, and so has the NHL and the MLB. The stock market is crashing, and colleges (including my own) are closing, and countries like Italy are on lockdown. The coronavirus has affected us all, and it feels like no matter where you go, what you watch, or who you listen to, coronavirus is the only thing everyone is talking about.
With every other major sports league adjusting because of the coronavirus, it’s time for the NFL to make a decision. Individual teams are canceling travel plans for scouts, closing training facilities, and colleges are canceling pro days. The NFL has confirmed the new-league year will begin on-time on March 18, but there’s still no word on things that are scheduled to happen afterward. (Except for the league’s annual meeting, now canceled, which was scheduled for March 29). And then there’s the NFL Draft.
The NFL Draft is currently scheduled to begin on April 23, but it’s in danger of being postponed because of coronavirus fears. The league will, of course, face mounting pressure as other leagues have canceled major events because of the threat of the virus. The Draft has already been affected because teams are restricting the movement of their scouts, and pro days are being canceled. Despite these developments, the NFL must adopt a “keep calm and carry on” approach.
The coronavirus is dangerous, but let’s not forget what’s real and what’s speculation. There are just 1,215 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. The coronavirus will not seriously impact the health of the vast majority of people that contract it. Should we as a nation be taking precautions to protect the vulnerable? Yes. But should we collectively panic because of the coronavirus with its minimal impact so far? Absolutely not.
The NFL Draft is more than a month away. There’s a good chance that by that time, America will be equipped to deal with the virus. There may be a vaccine, we may realize it’s not as bad as once thought, it might fizzle away, but it could also get worse. Instead of postponing the NFL Draft now, it would be wise to keep calm, carry on. Just wait and see. The NFL might need to take measures to protect fans and league personnel, but because the event is so far away from now, it’s best to just wait before making a move.
The Draft doesn’t have to have fans. If the NFL determines it would be safer to have the draft without fan interaction, or even a central draft presentation. The Draft can be conducted online. Teams already announce their picks by calling into the draft location from individual facilities. If virus fears continue, why not just have teams call in picks to the league offices? It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but still better than postponing the draft altogether.
People need sports, they need something to look forward to in these dark times. The NFL Draft can be that thing while everything else is closed.
The NFL must be cautious, but it also must wait. The league cannot make a rash decision. The Draft may need alterations, but it would be a mistake to jump the gun and postpone it before it’s even necessary.
Remember to be safe out there guys. Wash your hands, and stay inside if you feel sick. And please, for the love of Lamar Jackson, stop buying ALL the toilet paper. How is toilet paper going to protect you from coronavirus? Think people, THINK!