While other American professional and collegiate sports leagues are taking and considering drastic measures to contend with the spread of the coronavirus, the timing of the crisis is allowing the NFL to take more of a wait-and-see approach.
On Monday, the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS, all in the throes of their regular season or preseason, released a joint statement announcing a collective decision to close access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel.
The NFL, which completed its 2019 season with Super Bowl LIV in early February, was noticeably absent from that joint release. Unlike the other leagues, reporters who cover the NFL won’t get locker room access for months at the absolute earliest, as OTAs don’t begin until May. Even then, many teams don’t allow locker room access until training camp in the summer.
However, one can’t help but wonder if the NFL will adjust as the country’s public health policies change to prevent the virus’ spread. March is a busy time on the league calendar, largely due to free agency, which starts March 18, and the annual league spring meetings, which bring all 32 team owners together — along with reporters — at the end of the month.
A league spokesman said in a statement to Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that this year’s team owners gathering, scheduled from March 29-April 1 in Palm Beach, Florida, remain on. That also applies to the NFL draft in late April, which will be in Las Vegas for the first time.
The league’s statement reads:
“Our plans remain in place. The NFL continues to closely monitor coronavirus developments and has been in contact with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NFL-NFLPA’s medical experts at the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON). We will continue to monitor and share guidance as the situation warrants and as our experts recommend.”
The draft is the NFL’s premier offseason event, one the league recently expanded to various cities every year. The NFL and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation said that last year’s event in Nashville, Tennessee, generated an estimated 600,000 visitors and a record overall economic impact of $224 million for the city in terms of spending on lodging, local attractions, food, retail and transportation. The year before in Dallas, it generated an economic impact of $125 million.
What adjustments, if any, the league will be forced to make to its signature events remain up in the air.
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