NFL Draft Football

Cleveland Browns fans react to Ohio State's Denzel Ward being selected by their team during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. 

Cleveland will be the host of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The announcement was made May 22 by Cleveland Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam during the NFL owners’ meetings in Key Biscayne, Fla. 

It was heavily rumored before the announcement that Cleveland would host either the 2021 or 2023 drafts. Cleveland was previously a finalist for the 2019 and 2020 drafts, which were awarded to Nashville, Tenn., and Las Vegas, respectively. Cleveland’s 2019 and 2020 draft bids involved Canton, reportedly with the first three rounds being held in Cleveland and the final four rounds in Canton, but the winning 2021 bid did not. 

“Cleveland is honored to be selected as the host city for the 2021 NFL Draft and we are excited to once again show the world that this city can set a standard for hosting some of the world’s largest events,” said David Gilbert, president and CEO of Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, in a statement. 

“This event will provide international media exposure and has proven to provide more than $100 million in economic impact to the host city. We look forward to showing NFL fans across the nation how Cleveland throws a party. Being awarded the 2021 NFL Draft wouldn’t have been possible without the unwavering commitment of the Cleveland Browns, the support of the city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, the state of Ohio and so many others who helped make this a reality. As Cleveland continues to shine in the national spotlight with the unique opportunity to host four major sporting events over the next six years, including the draft, we are proud of this achievement which few destinations are able to accomplish.”

A news release said the 2021 draft would include “free celebrations” be held at downtown locations near FirstEnergy Stadium, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the shore of Lake Erie.

“We are incredibly honored to be able to showcase the city of Cleveland and the passion of Browns fans through the unique international platform the NFL Draft provides,” said Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam in the statement. 

“This is an exceptional opportunity for Northeast Ohio that even extends beyond football, and we look forward to continuing the work ahead with Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the city of Cleveland, Destination Cleveland and the NFL to ensure that the 2021 NFL Draft is truly memorable for Northeast Ohio and football fans across the world.”

The other finalists were reportedly Kansas City, Mo., which was selected host the 2023 draft on May 22, and Denver. No announcement has been made regarding the location of the 2022 draft.

“Cleveland has a passionate fan base and the city offers distinctive iconic locations and attractions that will bring the NFL Draft experience to fans in unique and exciting ways,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement after the announcement. “We look forward to collaborating with the Cleveland Browns, the city of Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland to celebrate the achievements of the next generation of players and create a memorable fan experience.”

“Rock the Clock,” a public press conference, was scheduled for the afternoon of May 23 at Public Square in Cleveland. Expected to attend were: Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson; Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish; Jim Donovan, Browns broadcaster; JW Johnson, executive vice president of the Browns; Browns General Manager John Dorsey; Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, former Browns player Josh Cribbs; and Gilbert.

The NFL Draft had traditionally been held in New York City since 1965, however, after the 2014 draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the NFL began rotating the site of the draft. Chicago hosted in 2015 and 2016, followed by Philadelphia in 2017, Dallas in 2018 and then Nashville.

Gilbert did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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