NFL cancels Hall of Fame game, delays inductions until 2021

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FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2015, file photo, a visitor to the Pro Football Hall of Fame pauses to take a photo of the sign in front in Canton, Ohio. The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic, two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday, June 25, 2020. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been publicly announced, though an announcement is expected later Thursday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Aug. 6 exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers is the first on-field event the league 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 on Aug. 7, 2021, with the special centennial class that was set to be inducted in mid-September now entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next day.

“This is the right decision for several reasons, first and foremost the health and welfare of our Gold Jackets, incoming centennial class of 2020 members, hall personnel and event volunteers,” said David Baker, the hall’s CEO. “We also must consider the most appropriate way to fulfill the first tenet of our mission: To honor the heroes of the game. This decision meets that duty.”

NFL owners are conducting a virtual meeting Thursday in which the preseason schedule will be discussed. It’s possible the league will reduce the number of exhibition games to two per team from the usual four. Dallas and Pittsburgh would have played five, including the game in Canton.

The NFL was able to conduct free agency, the draft and several owners meetings remotely, and it recently began reopening team facilities that were shut in late March, albeit on a limited basis. Only players who are rehabilitating injuries are allowed in team complexes.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL Films co-founder Steve Sabol, former New York Giants executive George Young, former coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, and former players Troy Polamalu, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James, Isaac Bruce and Steve Atwater were to be inducted into the hall this August.

The hall’s centennial celebration in September would have included the 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.