Instead of a game, the league will focus on virtual “engaging activities.”
The NFL announced on Wednesday that the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was originally slated to be played on January 31st, 2021, at the new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Pro Bowl roster swill still be named, which benefits the players, and fans will be able to participate in virtual activities in lieu of the actual event. The team rosters will be announced in December, and voting opens to fans on Nov. 17th.
Additionally, Las Vegas will host the 2022 Pro Bowl.
The announcement comes as the NFL is continuing to figure out how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the league did a virtual draft and the preseason was cancelled to minimize travel and potential team exposure. But since the Tennessee Titans virus outbreak following their Week 3 win over the Minnesota Vikings, players across multiple teams have tested positive and many games have had to be rescheduled.
Could this new Pro Bowl format actually be a good thing?
The 2021 Pro Bowl won’t be what we’re used to, but like the virtual draft, it could have some unexpected benefits.
For example, some players hesitate to participate in the Pro Bowl because of the injury risk, especially for players who will be competing in the Super Bowl. Keeping the tradition of naming a Pro Bowl roster without making players compete means that we can still celebrate the best players in the league without running that risk.
A virtual event also allows the NFL to engage more fans across the country.
It seems unlikely that the NFL will permanently get rid of playing a Pro Bowl match. But perhaps by engaging with virtual fans and celebrating the league’s best players in new ways, the NFL will be able to craft a better Pro Bowl experience in the future.