Mike Bianchi: Roger Goodell should be commended, not criticized, for proceeding with NFL draft

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Do not listen to them, Roger Goodell.

Ignore those critics who say you are doing a bad thing.

In fact, you are doing a good thing — a very good thing — and I’d like to thank you and the National Football League.

Thank you for going about your business.

Thank you for conducting trades, signing free agents and giving us sports fans something to look forward to during these depressing, distressing times.

Thank you, most of all, for ignoring the carpers and complainers and going ahead with your regularly scheduled NFL draft in a couple of weeks.

There have been those in the media who have strongly questioned commissioner Goodell’s decision to move forward with the draft during the coronavirus crisis, including eloquent San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion, who wrote recently:

“Does the NFL think it is somehow exempt from the ravages and consequences of the disease? … The area just blocks from NFL headquarters at 345 Park Ave. is a war zone. People are fighting for their lives … People are out of work, frightened for their future, worried about their loved ones. … The crisis is unfolding — or soon will be — in every NFL city. Priorities are being reshaped, resources redistributed. Emotions are raw. But the NFL wants to pretend it is business as usual.”

ESPN’s own NFL insider Adam Schefter railed against the league moving forward with the draft when he said a few days ago, “We all want to see the days where we have the distraction of football. OTAs? That’s not happening. The offseason program? That’s not happening. The draft is happening only through the sheer force and determination and lack of foresight from the NFL. They are determined to put this on while there is carnage in the streets.”

Give Schefter credit for having the guts to state such a forceful opinion when it’s his own network, ESPN, which will be broadcasting the draft April 21-23. However, I believe Schefter, Killion and other draft dissidents should be celebrating the NFL, not castigating it.

Seriously, what do these nattering nabobs of negativity expect during this pandemic? Do they want everybody sitting in their homes being lonely and miserable and only watching the dismal, dispiriting reports on the cable news networks?

Are we not allowed have any fun? Are we not allowed to be entertained? Are we not allowed to think about anything other than death?

And, by the way, what’s the difference between talking heads like Schefter analyzing the draft on TV and the NFL actually showing the draft on TV? And what’s the difference between NASCAR televising drivers competing in iRacing events from their homes and the NFL televising general managers making draft picks from their homes?

The fact is the NFL draft is actually the one major sports event in this country where you CAN actually do it from your own home. Goodell informed the teams earlier this week that the draft would proceed in a fully virtual format with all club facilities remaining closed curing the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for those NFL general managers who are reportedly complaining about college pro days being canceled and not being able to interview draft prospects in person and not having enough time to properly evaluate players, three words: Just shut up! You have three years of college game tape to evaluate; that should be plenty.

Then there are those GMs and coaches who are whining about how conducting the draft virtually could open the door to hacked pre-draft video conferencing sessions among team executives and confidential draft-pick information being leaked. Three more words: Get over yourselves! In the grand scheme of things, what you do really doesn’t matter in any substantive way. So just do your job and entertain us.

Don’t kid yourself, the NFL draft is nothing more than a sports fan’s version of the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” — just another multi-part entertainment option to pass the time during this necessary-but-mundane period of social distancing. Except, unlike Tiger King, the NFL is actually going to use its draft as a three-day fundraiser benefiting six different charities that are battling the spread of the coronavirus and delivering relief to millions in need.

Sorry, but I don’t see the downside of the NFL safely conducting a sporting event and likely raising tens of millions of dollars for the battle against COVID-19 in the process. I don’t see the downside of the nation’s most important sports league providing a diversion and a distraction during one of the sad, heartbreaking times in our nation’s history.

Let us not forget World War II, another sad and heartbreaking time in American history, when the nation’s favorite sport was then baseball. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt insisted then that sports would actually help the nation’s psyche during wartime.

FDR, writing to baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis in what became known as the “Green Light Letter,” said to Landis, “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.”

If baseball can be played during a world war, what’s wrong with having a virtual NFL draft during a global pandemic?


Absolutely nothing.

Thank you, NFL.

Thank you for giving us something to think about, talk about and get excited about as we sit in our homes and wait for the pandemic to pass.


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