While the NFL has largely handled business as usual during the coronavirus pandemic, that will change Thursday evening when the draft becomes a virtual experience with commissioner Roger Goodell, general managers and future rookies playing things out from the safety of their homes.
It appears matters between the league and NFL Players Association may become more complicated later this year, however.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith confirmed while speaking with reporters on Wednesday that the current collective bargaining agreement between the union and NFL has no "force majeure" clause regarding the canceling of games.
“We don’t have a provision,” Smith said. “It’s clear under the CBA. . . . We’re bound by a contract [and] certainly it has provisions in it that are different than other sports, and that’s just a fact.”
Florio notes this gives power to the players as it pertains to negotiations about where and when games could be played this fall, assuming the virus outbreak prevents the season from starting in September as planned, because the players will be owed their 2020 contracted salaries per the CBA even if games or the entire campaign get canceled.
It's widely expected any team sports played in North America this year will involve so-called "ghost games" without fans allowed to attend venues. This loss of revenue for NFL owners would impact the league's 2021 salary cap but not player earnings for the upcoming season.
The COVID-19 pandemic that halted professional and amateur sports competitions around the world in March left the NBA and NHL scrambling for ideas to conclude their 2019-20 seasons and indefinitely postponed MLB's Opening Day. Meanwhile, the NFL adopted a "wait-and-see" approach since preseason games won't kick off until August unless they are postponed.
Earlier on Wednesday, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton informed his players the team will have no offseason program ahead of training camp due to the coronavirus.