NEW YORK — If the NFL needs proof of the popularity of a May draft, it now has 32 million reasons why it worked this year.
First-round coverage of the draft on ESPN and NFL Network drew a combined total viewership of 32 million viewers, based on at least one minute of viewing. That makes it the most-viewed Round 1 ever, according to The Nielsen Company.
The 32 million is up 28 percent over last year’s 25.0 million.
“Thank you, fans, for making last night the most watched draft in our history,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the start of Friday night’s second round.
The combined ESPN and NFLN coverage also averaged a record 12.4 million viewers, easily ranking at the top, ahead of the 8.3 million in 2010. It was the most-watched program on cable TV and the second-most watched program on television Thursday night.
Because Radio City Music Hall was not available for the usual late April time slot, the league moved the draft back two weeks. Considering the number of viewers, keeping it in May is a distinct possibility.
League owners would have to approve such a move. Their next meeting is May 19-20 in Atlanta, followed by the fall meeting in October.
DAVIE, Fla. — A negative one-word tweet from Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones about the drafting of Michael Sam drew a rebuke from the team.
Shortly after the St. Louis Rams selected Sam in the seventh round Saturday, Jones tweeted, “Horrible.” The tweet was taken down a short time later.
Sam is the first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft.
The Dolphins were at the center of bullying scandal last season that embarrassed the league and drew nationwide scrutiny of locker room culture in the NFL.
After the draft, Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said he was made aware of Jones’ tweet.
“I was disappointed in those comments,” Hickey said. “That’s not what we stand for as an organization. The draft weekend is the culmination for so many players of their lifetime achievement of their dream to achieve their goal. For Michael Sam, for all the other players, it’s such a great celebration as they begin their future.
“We’re going to sit down with Don Jones and address (the tweet) appropriately.”