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    Why Does Roger Goodell Get Booed at the NFL Draft?

    Every year, NFL fans boo Roger Goodell when he walks out on stage at the NFL Draft. How did this start and why does it still happen?

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    Among the NFL‘s draft traditions is Roger Goodell getting booed throughout his appearances on stage. The boos have become such a large tradition of the draft itself that Goodell even paused to give fans time to boo him virtually during the 2020 NFL Draft. While Goodell certainly deserves some credit for playing the role of the villain, why is the commissioner booed so heavily during the NFL Draft?

    Roger Goodell Booed at Every NFL Draft Location

    When the draft was held in Radio City Music Hall in New York for nearly a decade until 2014, some people might have believed the booing was exacerbated by the general misery and grumpiness of the New York Jets fans longing for a championship season. However, the crowd has strongly booed Goodell at every draft location since then, from Chicago to Philadelphia to Paradise, Nev.

    So, what’s the reason for this negative reaction from seemingly every fan base? Initially, fans undoubtedly booed Goodell because they were displeased with his performance.

    One theory dates back to the player strike in 1987. When players refused to compete, the NFL turned to players from the Canadian Football League, the since-dissolved USFL, and players who had been cut in the preseason and were looking for another chance.

    Obviously, Goodell was nowhere close to being named commissioner back then. The specific booing of Goodell has nothing to do with the 1987 strike. However, the decision by the NFL to use replacement players led to a backlash against the commissioner’s office, which has dealt with the brunt of that frustration ever since.

    Of course, the legendary Pete Rozelle was the commissioner in 1987, having guided the league for nearly 30 years through extraordinary challenges and growth that contributed to the juggernaut that is today’s NFL. In a sense, while the pain of the 1987 strike might linger in football fans’ DNA, Goodell certainly couldn’t be blamed.

    That said, Goodell has drawn criticism for how he’s handled many thorny issues, including domestic violence, player safety, and cheating accusations.

    Booing the Commissioner Is Not All That Common

    NFL fans are a passionate bunch. Given how infrequently the commissioner appears in front of them, there are seldom few opportunities for fans to express their frustrations. And let’s be honest here: There will always be something for fans to be disgruntled about.

    Given the stakes of the NFL season, its teams, and its players in the eyes of its fandom, any opportunity to vent frustrations to the guy in charge is, apparently, time well spent.

    That goes for NFL ownership in general. Yes, they might be seen on the field, but often in their home stadium, during a game, when a fan’s passion for their team is at its peak. Rarely do fans get a chance to directly show their frustration to NFL ownership. As the face of that ownership, Goodell gets the heat on the first night of the draft.

    Goodell is not the only commissioner who is booed during the draft. Hockey fans do it at the NHL Draft, and NBA fans certainly used to let David Stern know about their concerns.

    At This Point, the Booing Might Be a Sort of “Term” of Endearment

    Sometimes, something that initially started as a negative or an insult can evolve into an ironic sort of praise.

    For the wrestling fans out there, you may remember way back in 2002, a young Edge trolled Kurt Angle by saying his theme music sounded like, “You suck.” Since Angle was a heel (read: bad guy), fans genuinely started chanting “You suck” during Angle’s theme song. It was meant to insult him.

    Over the years, though, Angle became beloved by WWE fans. Even when he was a fan favorite, the chants persisted and have throughout his career. To this day, when Angle’s music plays, fans will chant “You suck” throughout it. Except, now, it’s a term of endearment.

    With Goodell, the boos were definitely born out of malice, but it’s fair to say the dislike toward Goodell has dissipated over the years. Combined with the fact that Goodell leans into it, there’s a distinct chance the boos are now more of an ironic praise of the commissioner.

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