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Story Document The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opensthe preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies for ayear because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Aug. 6 exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, between the DallasCowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers is the first on-field event theleague has canceled during the pandemic. It will be played on Aug.5, 2021, with the same teams.
Enshrinements for 10 men scheduled for Aug. 8 now will occur onAug. 7, 2021, with the special centennial class that was set to beinducted in mid-September now entering the Pro Football Hall ofFame the next day.
”This is the right decision for several reasons, first andforemost the health and welfare of our Gold Jackets, incomingcentennial class of 2020 members, hall personnel and eventvolunteers,” said David Baker, the hall’s CEO. ”We also mustconsider the most appropriate way to fulfill the first tenet of ourmission: To honor the heroes of the game. This decision meets thatduty.”
NFL owners are conducting a virtual meeting Thursday in which thepreseason schedule will be discussed. It’s possible the league willreduce the number of exhibition games to two per team from theusual four. Dallas and Pittsburgh would have played five, includingthe game in Canton.
The NFL was able to conduct free agency, the draft and severalowners meetings remotely, and it recently began reopening teamfacilities that were shut in late March, albeit on a limited basis.Only players who are rehabilitating injuries are allowed in teamcomplexes.
Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL Films co-founder SteveSabol, former New York Giants executive George Young, formercoaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, and former players TroyPolamalu, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James, Isaac Bruce and SteveAtwater were to be inducted into the hall this August.
”The delay is obviously disappointing but completelyunderstandable,” Tagliabue told The Associated Press. ”It’salways a great weekend especially for football fans and family,coaches, colleagues who’ve been critical in our successes. But abig part of the weekend is meeting, greeting, photos and signingautographs for the thousands of fans. Not something that I’d wantto do in the coronavirus environment.”
The hall’s centennial celebration in September would have includedthe inductions of 10 men selected by a special panel in January.That class includes Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bobby Dillon,Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Alex Karras, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater,Mac Speedie and Ed Sprinkle.
The Hall of Fame, which opened in 1963, has never had twoenshrinements in one weekend. It has had cancellations of the game,including in 2011 because of the league’s lockout of the players,and in 2016, when the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium wasdeclared unplayable because of poor conditions.