Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The 2021 Pro Bowl will be held virtually through EA Sports' Madden NFL 21 video game after the real-life version of the football all-star game was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The league opened its fan voting Tuesday for the first virtual Pro Bowl, which could feature players whose teams reach the Super Bowl because they won't have to attend and play in the real-life game.
The NFL said Pro Bowl week will feature Madden matchups between celebrities, NFL legends, current players and streamers using the two Pro Bowl squads. Those matchups will culminate with 2021 Pro Bowl players facing off within Madden NFL 21 in the Pro Bowl Game.
"Even amidst unparalleled change across the sports industry, we are excited to transition many of the signature components of the Pro Bowl -- which will go virtual in Madden NFL 21 -- into a new innovative experience for our players and fans," NFL executive vice president of club business and events Peter O'Reilly said in a statement Tuesday.
The real-life Pro Bowl -- scheduled for Jan. 31 at the brand-new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas -- was called off last month due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first time the Pro Bowl has been canceled since 1949.
The 2022 Pro Bowl will be awarded to Las Vegas to make up for the cancellation.