NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL will proceed with its draft but without public events next month in Las Vegas. It's not yet clear, however, if the draft itself will be held in the city.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday the draft will take place April 23-25 as scheduled, but under a modified format still being developed. The draft will be televised regardless of its venue or format.
"In consideration of current information related to COVID-19 and guidance from medical experts such as the CDC, and in coordination with public authorities in Nevada and the city of Las Vegas, the NFL will modify its plans" the league said in a statement.
The NFL said it is exploring "innovative options" for how the process will be handled and will provide that information as it becomes available.
"This decision reflects our foremost priority: the health and safety of all fans and citizens," Goodell said. "While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the Raiders, the city of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl."
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she was "heartbroken," while the local tourism agency said it supported the decision based on federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that scheduled events with more than 50 people be canceled to curb the spread of the respiratory illness.
"The top priority today and in the days and weeks ahead is to ensure our community and visitors stay safe," the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said in a statement.
Next year's draft is scheduled for Cleveland, and the 2022 draft has not been awarded, though Los Angeles has been considered the favorite. Kansas City has the 2023 draft.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
The extravaganza the NFL planned for Las Vegas included closing down a portion of the Strip and using Caesars Palace and the lake in front of the Bellagio hotel. It would have had a large fan viewing zone for the proceedings and for concerts.
There also would have been the NFL Draft Experience where fans would participate in interactive games, view the Vince Lombardi Trophy, attend autograph sessions with NFL players and former players.
The NFL began moving the draft around in 2015, going to Chicago for two years, then Philadelphia, then Dallas and Nashville. Most of the league's cities, particularly those that won't likely host a Super Bowl, have shown interest in having it.
As for next month, nothing is certain. A good guess would be that teams will make their selections remotely from their cities, and a central studio might be used for the television presentations.
AP Sports Writer Tim Dahlberg in Las Vegas contributed to this report.