2020 Hall of Fame Game to be canceled, enshrinement postponed

The Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers has been canceled.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday that the preseason opener, scheduled for Aug. 6, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony on Aug. 8 has been postponed until 2021. Five modern-era players, a group comprised of Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James and Troy Polamalu; coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson; and three contributors, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue and George Young, were set to be enshrined this year.

"The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans and volunteers who make Enshrinement Week so special remains our top priority," Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "The Hall will honor the Centennial Class of 2020 next August, along with what promises to be an equally spectacular Class of 2021, as part of a multi-day celebration of football with an atmosphere that will deliver for fans 'Twice the Fun in '21.'"

With the HOF game no longer taking place, the Cowboys and Steelers are expected to report to training camp when the rest of the teams begin workouts in late July. The current training camp start date is July 28, but the beginning of training camp is one topic NFL owners are expected to discuss in Thursday's video conference meeting, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

A fortnight ago, Baker said the game and ceremony were on pace to be played, but there were contingencies in place if postponement was necessary. In the end, the league felt it safest to cancel the game amid the pandemic. The Cowboys and Steelers have agreed to postpone their preseason matchup until Aug. 5, 2021, which will kick off next year's Enshrinement Week.

Baker also said in an interview on NFL NOW that the Hall of Fame had considered doing a virtual enshrinement for this year's class, but decided for a double-sized ceremony next summer.

"We think that our mission is to honor the heroes of the game and to do that without your friends and your families and your teammates and the fans that helped get you here just doesn't do it service," Baker said. "So in the end we thought the best thing to do after talking to our board of trustees was to put this enshrinement over into 2021. That will be pretty special because we will also enshrine in a separate ceremony the Class of 2021. So our phrase right now is, "It's going to be twice the fun in '21.'"

It's the first major event the NFL has had to completely cancel due to COVID-19. The live NFL draft in Las Vegas was wiped out, but the league still held the event virtually.

The NFL has said multiple times it plans to push forward with the 2020 regular season starting on time. The cancellation of the HOF game could be the first stage in curtailing the preseason, however, as the league deals with the difficulties of playing games during a pandemic.

The Hall of Fame game was last canceled in 2016 due to unsafe field conditions, and in 2011 amid the lockout.

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