(Reuters) - The NFL Draft usually brings fans together in hopes their team can land a blue-chip prospect but the coronavirus outbreak has scuppered those plans this week and fans are instead ready to party in a virtual format.
The NFL Draft, typically a glitzy, red-carpeted affair that this year was supposed to be in Las Vegas, will instead have a new look and feel as it will be conducted in a virtual format, with team personnel working from their homes.
Millions of viewers are expected to tune in on Thursday for what will be their first live sporting event in six weeks and so NFL teams have decided to jump in on the action.
“We hope the NFL Draft will be a source of joy and excitement for fans who welcome some distraction during these extremely challenging times,” said Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera.
“The virtual draft party is meant to be a celebration that will create a sense of unity for Redskins fans as we continue this fight together, while understanding we have a responsibility to do the right thing by not celebrating together physically.”
The Redskins, who hold the second overall pick, will show draft coverage on their social media channels during the three-day event, including a virtual party on Saturday featuring player interviews and fan interaction and giveaways.
The Dallas Cowboys said they will treat their supporters to an event hosted by Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and former player DeMarcus Ware.
The event will include a chance to win a phone call from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a video chat with a current player and interviews with current and former members of the team.
The long-suffering Cincinnati Bengals, who hold the first overall pick, will host a 30-minute pre-draft virtual party featuring former team greats Boomer Esiason and Anthony Munoz.
“It is in times like these when sports further highlight the amazing bonds in our community,” said Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn.
“The Bengals look forward to celebrating this highly anticipated moment in team history as we look forward to the 2020 season.”
The San Francisco 49ers, who squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl in February and have two first-round picks, are also getting in on the virtual party action with hopes of giving their fans a welcome distraction.
“We wanted to provide the faithful with a unique experience for the first major sports event in the United States in over a month,” said 49ers Chief Marketing Officer Alex Chang.
“Interest among the faithful for this draft is especially high coming off of our Super Bowl appearance and looking ahead at our two potential first round picks.
“We’re excited to ... create these experiences for our fans and hope they provide them with some enjoyment during this challenging time.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis