One of the traditions maintained in NFL Draft are Roger Goodell getting booed throughout his appearances on stage. The boos have become such a large tradition of the draft itself that during the 2020 virtual draft, Goodell even paused to give fans time to boo him virtually.
While Goodell certainly deserves some credit for playing the role of the villain, why is the commissioner booed so heavily during the NFL Draft? Let’s take a look.
It is reported that when the draft was held in Radio City Music Hall in New York, there was some feeling the booing was exacerbated by the misery and grumpiness of the New York Jets fans. However, the crowd has strongly booed Goodell at every location the draft has been to since it started to move around.
Some people point to the player strike in 1987. When the players refused to play, the NFL turned to players from the Canadian League, the recently dissolved USFL, and players who had been cut in the preseason and were looking for another chance.
This became deeply unpopular on several levels, and with the commissioner ultimately being the face of the league, his office has dealt with the brunt of that frustration since then.
Meanwhile, Goodell has drawn criticism for the handling of several issues. These include handling player safety, domestic violence, and a number of other NFL-wide and team-specific issues.
The other element behind the ferocity of the booing at the NFL Draft is that there are limited opportunities to tell Goodell to his face if you feel he is doing a bad job.
The commissioner rarely engages with large swathes of fans, and he’s really only put in front of the public a few times a year. Therefore, those small opportunities are the time to vent those frustrations.
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 frustrations.