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Don’t worry, NFL. The WNBA just showed you how a virtual draft is done. – Yahoo Sports

Satou Sabally showcased her Gambian roots. Lauren Cox was showered with confetti. Bella Alarie suddenly found herself crunched into a family hug. And Jocelyn Willoughby sat in silence for a second.

would change the league as the No. 1 overall pick to the rebranded New York Liberty. But it was also the first virtual draft in the modern history of sports by virtue of timing due to the COVID-19 crisis. And it served as an unofficial test run for the NFL draft, which will go virtual next week.’ data-reactid=”18″>This night was long celebrated as the day Sabrina Ionescu would change the league as the No. 1 overall pick to the rebranded New York Liberty. But it was also the first virtual draft in the modern history of sports by virtue of timing due to the COVID-19 crisis. And it served as an unofficial test run for the NFL draft, which will go virtual next week.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert congratulates No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu. The WNBA’s virtual draft on ESPN ran into some expected hiccups, but set a solid precedent for the upcoming NFL draft. (ESPN screenshot)

It was admittedly a rocky start with Ionescu’s Wi-Fi lacking the star power of the player using it. The interview with the ESPN broadcast team — social distancing in the studio and with Holly Rowe at her home — lagged and the two sides got caught up at first.

But it was smooth sailing after that. Her Oregon teammate, Sabally, went No. 2 to the Dallas Wings and viewers got a glimpse into her background, both literally and ancestrally. Sabally grew up in Germany, where her parents were Friday, and plays for their national team.

Seattle Storm star and Rowe’s bobblehead.) And we got to watch a new star’s phone blow up in real time with congratulatory texts when Oregon State’s Mikayla Pivec was taken by the Atlanta Dream.’ data-reactid=”66″>This one gave us that lens. We saw their support system, the people who’ve been with them since the very first Day 1, in their home environments. (For the easter egg hunters, there were two Sue Birds. The real Seattle Storm star and Rowe’s bobblehead.) And we got to watch a new star’s phone blow up in real time with congratulatory texts when Oregon State’s Mikayla Pivec was taken by the Atlanta Dream.

postpone the start of the season indefinitely and cancel all the pomp and circumstance draftees are accustomed. No trip to New York City. No orange carpet. No chance at fashion. No moment on the stage. It was going to be different for them.’ data-reactid=”68″>It forced Engelbert to postpone the start of the season indefinitely and cancel all the pomp and circumstance draftees are accustomed. No trip to New York City. No orange carpet. No chance at fashion. No moment on the stage. It was going to be different for them.

Engelbert made sure it wasn’t going to be worse and her decision was reinforced when she heard the excitement of prospects this week whose lives had just been upended by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament.

“It really made me feel like we did the right thing here and we need to give these bright spots to the American public,” Engelbert said on a conference call before the draft. “Certainly live sports is very much missed, we all know that. If we can do our part to get the conversation going again, we’re excited to do that and be the first ones out there to do a virtual draft.”

She has talked often in her short time running the league of opportunity. In the hour-long conference call she used the word at every turn. This is an opportunity to showcase the women’s game, to bring people a live sporting event, to be ingenious in how it’s done.

Prospects got swag boxes with the team’s hats, the key to the league and an interactive to scan that showed Engelbert welcoming the individual to the pros. The interactivity was something she said the league will work to incorporate in the coming months and even years.

There’s no reason the NFL can’t do the same. Take the chance to feature the rising stars. They’re about to become your marketing tool, anyway. Worry less about the bad stuff, like fretting over medical rechecks and secure connections. NFL teams make poor draft choices annually. Now they can just place blame somewhere else.

And while ESPN could have done a better job focusing on the second and third rounds rather than rushing through, their production work was seamless. Viewers still got the draft picks. The analysis. The trades. The excitement.

The NFL draft will be fine. The WNBA just showed you how it’s done.

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