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NFL Draft in the Wake of COVID-19

The Longest Time-Out

Like the rest of the United States, the world of sports is on a COVID-19-induced pause. As fans yearn for nonexistent sports content to distract them from the global pandemic, the financial toll is mounting. From owners to athletes to food service workers, the economic web of American sports is vast. Economists estimate that the sports industry adds $71 billion to the US economy every year.

The NFL draft is scheduled for today, and while Americans are clearly hungry for sports to start up again, it’s not clear if public health is ready. In a Seton Hall sports poll conducted with Braun Research Incorporated, 70% of respondents said that if social distancing continues into the fall, NFL games should remain on hold for the safety of players and fans. 72% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a game of any kind before a coronavirus vaccine is approved. Just 12% said they would go if the league could ensure proper social distancing measures.

Game Plans

The NBA has talked about using a Las Vegas hotel to isolate players for practices and games, but that won’t be a viable option until they can get coronavirus testing. The MLB has discussed a similar plan, floating the idea of an isolated baseball season in an Arizona desert.

The NFL has more time to make a plan than the other American sports leagues, as the season isn’t scheduled to start until September. The off-season, however, has been significantly altered. All public events for the draft have been cancelled, and the whole event will be held virtually for the first time in history.

As the NFL and College Football decide how to handle the impending football season, the CDC recently predicted that the coronavirus could surge again in the winter.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview earlier this week. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”

A winter wave of COVID-19 could prove disastrous for the football industry, as it would potentially impact the end of the coming season and the beginning of the next one. It’s not yet clear how an altered season could financially impact the NFL, but losses would involve ticket sales, television contracts, and more.

Betting on It

As the first round of the NFL draft approaches, sports fans are anxious for something to watch. Their attention seems to be turning to the draft itself, and the sports betting market is ready.

Tonight’s first round is expected to be the most actively bet upon NFL draft in history . The coronavirus is largely to thank for the increased interest, but so is the relative novelty of betting on the NFL draft. “We’ll do probably more than 10 [times] what we did last year [on the draft],” said John Sheeran, Director of Trading for FanDuel, in an interview with ESPN.

Now, the sports economy will just have to wait to see whether games can be played in the fall.

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