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NFL replaces Pro Bowl with flag football, skills competitions

Signage for the NFL Pro Bowl is seen at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Chase Stevens | Las Vegas Review Journal | Getty Images

The NFL said it is eliminating the Pro Bowl in favor of a week’s worth of skill competitions and a flag football game.

In what’s now called “The Pro Bowl Games,” players from both conferences will showcase their football and non-football talents in a weeklong series of competitive events, replacing the full-contact Pro Bowl game that started in 1951.

The multi-day event will be held in Las Vegas in February, and will culminate with a flag football game to take place at Allegiant Stadium, where the Las Vegas Raiders play.

The shift comes as the Pro Bowl has been criticized in the past as players are told not to play to their best ability in order to avoid injury. Last year, the NFL expanded its regular season by one game. The NFL is also trying to amplify flag football, a growing part of the organization’s future.

The Associated Press first reported the news on Monday.

Earlier this year, the league said it was aiming to grow its international business to $1 billion annually. As part of that, the NFL has been pushing for flag football to be included in the summer Olympics, with the aim of beginning in 2028.

This past summer the NFL partnered with the International Federation of American Football on bringing flag football to “The World Games,” an international event that showcases games that weren’t included in the Olympics, in Birmingham, Alabama.

The league said in Monday’s release that flag football is “a growing focus for the organization” and “a critical piece of the NFL’s participation and development strategy, due to its highly accessible and inclusive qualities.” Flag football will be integrated in other parts of the multi-day events.

The league said the week-long schedule and other details will be released later in the football season.

Disney’s broadcast network ABC and cable channel ESPN will air the flag football game scheduled for Feb. 5, and the NFL said it’s working with other partners to program the days of competitions.

Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions will also have skin in the game as it will help shape the programming throughout the week, the NFL said in a release. Manning will also take part in the coaching staff for the flag football game.

Manning, and his brother Eli, both retired NFL quarterbacks, have enjoyed success as the co-hosts of an alternate “Monday Night Football” telecast for ESPN2.

The Pro Bowl news follows the revelation that Rihanna will headline the Super Bowl halftime show, which is now sponsored by Apple, on Feb. 12.

–CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

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