The New England Patriots and the Commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, have quite a bit of history. While it’s pretty common for the commissioner of any given sports organization to get booed, Goodell may not hear any louder jeers than when he’s at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Fans Have Been Purchasing Clown-Nose Shirts & Will Get Clown Towels for the Patriots’ Home-Opener Tonight
Patriots fans aren’t shy about their distaste for Commissioner Goodell. So when word came out that he was less than pleased with seeing New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wearing a Barstool Sports shirt that depicted him with a clown nose, Barstool founder — and Patriots fan — Dave Portnoy upped the ante, as WEEI reported.
In preparation for Goodell’s anticipated appearance at the Patriots’ September 7 Week 1 Thursday night season kickoff, Portnoy ordered 30,000 towels with the same design to pass out to Patriots Nation.
“So we know Roger Goodell is going to be at Foxboro for the NFL Season opener. We also know our Clown shirt drives him bananas. Just sends him into a blind rage. Hmm, what oh what should I do?” Portnoy asked in a blog post entitled “I Ordered 30K Of These Clown Towels. I Regret Nothing.”
According to WEEI, he ordered another 40,000, for a total of 70,000, when Goodell made an appearance at the first 2017 New England preseason game.
Portnoy doesn’t anticipate fans having any issues bringing the towels into the game, or that the team could really stop them.
“Even if they wanted to stop it, how do you stop a towel from going into the stadium?” he asked. “You can put it down your pants.”
2. The Hatred for Goodell Hit a Fever Pitch when He Suspended Tom Brady for ‘Deflategate’
“Deflategate” is the term given to the scandal involving Tom Brady allegedly having air taken out of his footballs during the 2014-2015 AFC Championship game. The Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts (45-7), who accused Brady and his team of altering the air pressure in their game balls.
Following an investigation by the NFL, Brady was handed a four-game suspension. Brady subsequently took that suspension — and Goodell — to court and, despite some back and forth, his suspension was ultimately upheld.
“Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs,” reported ESPN at the time.
Brady was forced to sit out the first four games of the 2016 season, making Patriots fans furious. However, the season turned out to be the ultimate revenge tour for Brady, who led his team to a Super Bowl victory.
3. Pats Nation Already Had Issues with Goodell Stemming Back to ‘Spygate’
The handling of the “Deflategate” situation wasn’t the first time Goodell sparked the ire of the New England faithful. A prior scandal — involving the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick — dubbed “Spygate,” was the impetus for Patriots fans’ dislike for the embattled commissioner.
In 2007, members of the Patriots staff were caught recording the New York Jets defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location. While recording an opposing team is not prohibited in itself, doing so from the team’s own sideline was, in Goodell’s mind, in violation of league rules. Following an investigation, Goodell’s punishment of the franchise was swift and hefty. According to ESPN, Belichick was fined $500,000, the Patriots organization was fined $250,000 and the team would forfeit its first round draft pick for 200; if the team had missed the playoffs, it would have lost its second and third round picks.
“This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field,” Goodell said in a letter addressed to the Patriots organization.
Goodell came under criticism at large for his decision to destroy the tapes and other evidence collected during the “Spygate” investigation, including attention from members of Congress.
“There is an unmistakable atmosphere of conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest between what is in the public’s interest and what is in the NFL’s interest.,” Senator Arlen Specter said in a 2008 statement on the chamber floor.
4. Fans Say Goodell Isn’t Welcome at Gillette Stadium
Goodell is hardly a welcome face in Foxborough, especially since he suspended Brady for “Deflategate.” Although Goodell hasn’t made attending Patriots’ home games a habit, fans are always sure to let him know that they’d rather he stayed home.
Interestingly, fans have been known to taunt Goodell, even when he’s not present — that’s just how much they despise him.
“‘Deflategate’ turned Goodell into Public Enemy No. 1 in Patriots country, and fans at Gillette took glee in a roaring ‘Where is Roger?!’ during the playoff games he missed,” reports the Washington Post.
You can hear Gillette chanting “Where is Roger?” in the video below.
5. Goodell Is Okay with Being Hated
In similar fashion, Goodell is fine being the target of animosity, from Patriots fans or any other source, according to USA Today.
“From our standpoint, we understand when fans who are loyal and passionate to a team object and don’t like the outcome,” Goodell told the media, following the Patriots Super Bowl LI victory over the Atlanta Falcons. “I totally understand that. That’s not an issue for me. This is just about making sure we take care of business and do it the way that is right and upholds the integrity of our teams and our rules for all 32 teams.”
“I’ll be honest with you, I have disagreements with probably all 32 of our teams. I’m not afraid of disagreements and I don’t think disagreement leads to distrust or hatred. It’s just a disagreement,” he added.