After parking the event in New York for decades, the NFL discovered a cash cow by turning the Draft into, essentially, the Spring Super Bowl. The event moved to Chicago in 2015-16, Philadelphia in 2017, Dallas in 2018 and Nashville in 2019, drawing a reported 600,000 fans to show up and watch dudes in suits hear their names called.
The draft was scheduled to hit Las Vegas before the pandemic hit, but the 2021 event is still on for Cleveland. At least for now.
"Right now it's full steam ahead planning for a large live event in Cleveland. It's being promoted nationally," Greater Cleveland Sports Commission president and CEO David Gilbert told 3News on Wednesday. "It's not going to be elbow to elbow, certainly, the way it was in Nashville."
Other one off football events (the East-West Shrine Bowl, the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner, the U.S. Army All-American Game, to name three) have been postponed to 2021-22, but the NFL has pressed forward with business as usual. Other than moving the 2020 Draft to a virtual format and limiting fans, and the NFL has not altered its schedule to the pandemic.
On that note, the NFL announced Wednesday the Super Bowl will not move the Super Bowl back from its scheduled Feb. 7 date in the event the league adds a week to the regular season.
And the 2021 draft remains on the schedule for April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland.
"It's being planned with outdoor social distancing in mind," Gilbert said. "Until COVID could tell us otherwise, it's still six months from now and we are certainly hopeful it's going to be a major large live event and it will be an event that's watched by tens of millions of people around the country."
The announcement is a dose of cold water reality of just how long this pandemic has dragged on, and how much longer we still have to go. In April we watched teams draft players from their homes, optimistic that a return to normal was just a month or two away. Six months later, we're hardened by experience that this social-distanced reality will likely be with us six months from now.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.