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The NFL sent a message loud and clear following this year’s NFL Draft: we want massive crowds and a festival-like atmosphere for the event. The days of holding the Draft in Radio City Music Hall in New York City are gone. As, likely, are indoor drafts in general.
The biggest problem is that the players don’t seem overly interested in these drafts. Attending the NFL Draft, particularly under the lights of New York City, was a dream for most young football players.
But traveling to Kansas City, Cleveland or Detroit isn’t much of a destination for a 20-something-year-old just to hear his name called. Green Bay likely suffers a similar fate.
But the league doesn’t care as much about the 20-30 prospects who might attend the NFL Draft. They care about the hundreds of thousands of fans they can pack in and around a venue.
Kansas City hosted over 300,000 during the course of the 2023 NFL Draft. And, why shouldn’t fans show up? How much more is there to do in Kansas City on a weekend in late April?
That’s not to disparage Kansas City; I grew up in Erie, Penn., and currently live in central Connecticut. There’s not a lot to do in either place, I assure you. And, if the NFL Draft showed up near me, you better believe I’d be there.
And ultimately, that’s the point of the NFL Draft now. To give fans in cities that aren’t likely to host a Super Bowl the chance to hold a major NFL event.
Which tracks perfectly with the official announcement that San Francisco is getting ANOTHER Super Bowl in 2026.
Although, getting to Green Bay is a massive pain. At least Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City are places with large airports. So travel isn’t going to be fun for anyone.
But none of that really matters. There’s certainly nothing to do in Green Bay, Wis., in late April that trumps the NFL Draft. People are going to come out in droves.
And that’s all the NFL cares about at this point. Really, that’s all they should care about.
They abandoned the fans with overt political messaging over the past few years and it has been a disaster. No surprise there.
They’ve slowly been trying to build it back up, and heading to cities in middle America is a nod to football fans.
Coastal elites aren’t the ones packing NFL stadiums on Sundays. And they aren’t the ones flocking to the NFL Draft. They do show up for the Super Bowl, which has become more of a corporate event for elites than a football game for average fans.
But that’s who makes up the majority of the NFL audience: hard-working middle Americans.
And you better believe that’s who’s going to fill up Lambeau Field in April of 2025.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak