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NFL caps draft in Cleveland at 50,000 fans daily

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is fully vaccinated, will attend the 2021 NFL Draft from Thursday to Saturday in Cleveland. File Photo by Sergio Flores/UPI
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is fully vaccinated, will attend the 2021 NFL Draft from Thursday to Saturday in Cleveland. File Photo by Sergio Flores/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, April 23 (UPI) -- A maximum of 50,000 people per day will be allowed to attend 2021 NFL Draft events from Thursday through Saturday in Cleveland, the NFL announced Friday.

"We know [COVID-19] pandemic is still out there and that guides our every move, but we want to be able to point to brighter days ahead," NFL executive vice president of events Peter O'Reilly told reporters on a conference call.

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The free NFL Draft Experience, a temporary campus the league erects at annual drafts, will be situated in downtown Cleveland. The Draft Experience area will be about 2.5 million square feet, the NFL said.

Fans will be required to wear masks, socially distance and fill out health promise forms to attend the events. The area features FirstEnergy Stadium, shops, food and beverage outlets and additional activities for fans.

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Reservations are required through the NFL OnePass app, the league said.

The league plans to use a temporary outdoor draft theater, the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its production for the 2021 NFL Draft.

The league worked with Cleveland and Ohio public health authorities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its own medical advisers to establish protocols for the event.

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"We have every confidence in our protocols that are in place," O'Reilly said. "We learned so much from what we did at the Super Bowl, where we were able to do a free, outdoor Super Bowl Experience.

"We have very clear data working with our partners to show that our events did not cause any spread during the season, and we have that confidence here. Those protocols are very real and very enforced. So critical is the mask-wearing, and that will be heavily enforced throughout the draft."

Thirteen top prospects will be on-site at the draft. An additional 45 prospects will participate virtually. Each of the 32 NFL teams have chosen "draft ambassadors" to attend the event. Those fans will sit in an "inner circle" section and must be fully vaccinated and wear masks.

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The live draft follows the unprecedented 2020 NFL Draft, which was planned to be in Las Vegas, but took place in a virtual fashion as a safety precaution for the coronavirus pandemic.

Prospects and fans watched from off-site locations as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced draft selections from the basement of his Bronxville, N.Y., home.

The NFL said Goodell is fully vaccinated and will have similar interactions with the prospects as he did in past drafts. Those interactions typically include handshakes and hugs after players hear their names called.

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The 2021 NFL Draft airs Thursday through Saturday on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC.

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