NFL to hold 'fully virtual draft' amid coronavirus shutdown

Team personnel should plan to work from their homes, over the phone and internet, according to a memo obtained by the NFL Network.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has reportedly informed all 32 teams to be ready to conduct the 2020 player draft in a "fully virtual" format.

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The NFL plans to hold its 2020 player draft in a "fully virtual" format later this month, with each team's personnel working remotely from their homes. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell informed all 32 teams in a memo on Monday obtained by the NFL Network. The move is in accordance with government orders to stay at home to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Team personnel should plan to use the internet and phones to communicate, he said. In addition to maintaining appropriate health practices, Goodell said the decision was also based on the need to be fair to all teams.

"All clubs will not have access to their facilities, which is contrary to the fundamental equity principle that all clubs operate in a consistent and fair way," Goodell said in the memo. "Our staff will carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices.

"We cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the various needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face."

The new coronavirus causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. In March, the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a pandemic. As of Thursday, 1 million people worldwide have been infected and over 51,000 lives have been lost. The outbreak has caused cities and entire countries around the globe to issue lockdowns, shuttering stores and ordering citizens to stay at home to help contain the coronavirus.

It's also led to the cancellation or suspension of major sporting events around the globe. In US sports, we've seen the suspension of the NBA, NHL and MLS seasons, the postponement of the start of Major League Baseball and the cancellation of winter and spring NCAA championships, including the men's and women's March Madness college basketball tournaments. 

The NFL draft, originally planned to be held in Las Vegas, is slated for April 23 through 25. In mid-March, the NFL ordered teams to halt pre-draft visits with prospects at team facilities.

NFL offices have been closed since March 13, and team facilities have been closed since March 26. Goodell said facilities will reopen "when it is safe to do so" based on medical and public health advice, in compliance with government mandates.

The NFL couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

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