Last week concern around the NFL began to grow that the league’s annual preseason kickoff game, the Pro Football Hall of Fame game, would be cancelled. Unfortunately, those fears have met their reality as the HOF game has been called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to ESPN, the Hall of Fame ceremony itself is being postponed and will take place in 2021. The Dallas Cowboys were going to see both Cliff Harris and Jimmy Johnson get their bronze busts and gold jackets this year.
This marks the first time the NFL has had to cancel an event on its calendar because of the pandemic, with the Hall of Fame Game annually kicking off the preseason. The NFL had been able to conduct free agency, albeit in a different way, as well as a virtual NFL draft.
The Cowboys and Steelers are now expected to play in the 2021 Hall of Fame Game, sources said, and the enshrinement ceremony also is expected to be held next year.
As noted this is the first event on the NFL calendar that has been cancelled due to Covid-19, but the HOF game has been cancelled before. Back in 2016 it was called off due to field concerns. When it comes to the here and now, the league has marched on in many socially-distanced ways but clearly feels that the game and ceremony would be too difficult to handle in manners that they feel are safe.
It is worth mentioning that this year’s Hall of Fame Class was a bit larger than usual. To celebrate the league’s 100th season that just finished the NFL and HOF had a “Centennial Class” where they opened induction to a larger amount of people. They were already planning for two different enshrinement ceremonies so as to accommodate all 20 inductees (five modern era selections and 15 as part of the Centennial Committee). If they are pushing it back to 2021, perhaps they are meaning at a different time than normal as the Class of 2021 will be enshrined in August when the ceremony and game usually take place. We will have to wait and see.
The report also notes that the Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers (their opponent for the HOF game) are both now scheduled to play in the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, so we can look forward to that. As a whole the HOF game was going to provide the Cowboys and Steelers each with an earlier start to training camp than the other 30 teams, but that detail is now changed as well.
The game’s cancellation is anticipated to change when the Cowboys and Steelers report to training camp. The Cowboys and Steelers were preparing to be the first two teams to report to camp in about a month but now are likely to report with the rest of the league’s teams.
Altogether the Cowboys were actually going to get a double heads up on teams as with a new head coach in Mike McCarthy they were eligible to begin OTAs before all teams with returning coaches. With those yet to take place those circumstances are obviously changed.
Wednesday night brought with it news that report dates for teams are expected to be July 28th. The league is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss more details, but we also learned on Wednesday that organizations are going to be eligible to sell ad space on the first eight seats of tarped-off areas in 2020.
This football season is going to be very different.
Update: 12:20pm ET
The Pro Football Hall of Fame confirmed the news themselves and released a statement.
As a public health precaution, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce are rescheduling all events associated with the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
Events tied to Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls now will take place Aug. 5-9, 2021.
“The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans and volunteers who make Enshrinement Week so special remains our top priority,” said David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “The Hall will honor the Centennial Class of 2020 next August, along with what promises to be an equally spectacular Class of 2021, as part of a multi-day celebration of football with an atmosphere that will deliver for fans ‘Twice the Fun in ’21.’”
Hopefully the 2021 ceremony is enjoyable.