Why fans boo Goodell at the NFL Draft every year

There is a general theme to the beginning of all NFL draft proceedings, and it typically persists throughout the first round. As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks on the stage to announce a team’s selection, a curious sound will rain down from the heavens.

The draft was in Philadelphia in 2017. The boos were even more merciless and cascading then they were in New York or Chicago.

Fans in Dallas wouldn’t be shown up in 2018, drowning Goodell in boos.

Here’s a look:

Philadelphia booed Goodell relentlessly on the draft’s first day in 2017 and on the second day, even though Goodell had local legend Ron Jaworski on stage to help him.

They were even on signs in 2018.

And in 2019, the boos were still there, but it appears ESPN did some audio engineering to tamp them down.

In 2020, the draft boos were done virtually so we can skip that. But in 2021 with the draft back to being an in-person event, the fans in Cleveland gave the boos Goodell desires:

This is a rare time to vent your frustration at Goodell

This is one of the few venues that fans can en masse really let him have it. Many times, if he’s at a stadium on a regular Sunday, he’s in a luxury box, and you likely won’t realize he’s there. Pretty much the only time Goodell is out in the open in front of thousands of fans is the draft and the Super Bowl trophy presentation.

To be fair, Patriots fans took that opportunity and ran with it after their team beat the Falcons.

As he walks through stadiums across the country, perhaps you can do some jeering, and it’s always cathartic to yell at him while he’s on TV. But this is thousands of people getting together to just shower him with boos as he stands lonely on stage behind a mic. A lovely torch-and-pitchforks moment for us all.

So why do we boo?

Look, we can all agree that part of our pent-up aggression as it pertains to Goodell has to do with some base jealousy. He has a silver spoon quality as the son of a politician and a lifelong NFL employee. He is the suit-iest of suits. He essentially made a million dollars in salary per franchise in 2015, and that was actually a pay cut from his salary a year before. He is the easy target for any issue you have with the league.

He is the archetype for all of the league’s stuffiness and largesse: from the rules that make the NFL the No Fun League, to the on-field scandals like Spygate, Deflategate, and Bountygate. You got issues with ticket prices, personal conduct suspensions, drug offenses, your team moving, or your team fleecing your city for a new stadium? Exorcise that demon right before he announces the pick.

That also doesn’t even get near the ways the league has bungled serious issues like player safety and domestic violence. He’s on the hook for those, too.

Goodell is the NFL bureaucracy’s public-facing shill (paid by the owners, mind you), so he’s going to bear the brunt of fan frustration. He will hear our boos during the first round of the draft; it’s all we have to battle him with.

But he’s actually not alone in this

Booing commissioners is kinda what we do as sports fans in America.

Hockey fans let Gary Bettman absolutely get it every year at the NHL draft.

Even Adam Silver, who is essentially the “cool commissioner” in American sports, gets some boos. He used to do the second round of the draft before he got the big job, and they were booing him then, too.

To be fair, his predecessor, David Stern, got far worse.

At least Stern leaned into the heel role. Goodell, to his credit, has too, just a bit.