The NFL will hold its annual draft next month as scheduled but the coronavirus outbreak has forced cancellation of public events due to take place around the three-day spectacle in Las Vegas, the league said in a statement on Monday.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would televise the April 23-25 draft as per usual but there would be no events for the public in Las Vegas.
The announcement came a day after several Las Vegas casinos and hotels on the city’s main strip announced they were shuttering as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“This decision reflects our foremost priority – the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” said Goodell.
The NFL draft has become a major part of the American football calendar, and usually attracts hundreds of thousands of fans to the city chosen to host the event.
The draft is the latest event to fall victim to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which has ground all major sports in the United States and Canada to a standstill.
In a separate development on Monday, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced that team pre-season activities due to get under way next month would also be delayed.
The NFL is also taking steps to protect players and team officials during the free agency period which begins on Wednesday.
The league is barring teams from bringing free agent players to club facilities to meet staff.
NFL team medical personnel will also be prevented from travelling to carry out in-person medical examinations of free agent players, the league said.
Instead teams would be able to review a free agent player’s medical records from his prior clubs and to arrange for medical exams in the player’s home city.
In an additional move, teams have been ordered to shutter their facilities for the next fortnight, the league said.
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