If you’re planning on watching the NFL’s regular season kickoff game featuring the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, you may notice some blue flags waving in and around Gillette Stadium.
Those turquoise-blue towels feature the face of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell donning a red clown nose on the front and a logo of Barstool Sports on the back.
The towels were handed out prior to the game on behalf of Barstool, which encouraged fans to wave and display the towels before and during the game to show their hatred for Goodell.
The Patriots fans have been extremely vocal about their dislike for Goodell since the “Deflategate” investigation. On more than one occasion, “Where is Roger?” chants have been heard at Gillette.
Here’s what you need to know about the Goodell clown towels:
1. The Towels Are in Response to Goodell Suspending Tom Brady
Since “Deflategate,” which resulted in Goodell and the NFL suspending Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2016-17 season, Barstool founder Dave Portnoy has been outspoken about his hatred for Goodell.
“Everybody knows (the NFL) has got nothing on Brady,” Portnoy said during a 2016 interview with WPRI News during on of Brady’s court hearings. “And Goodell’s lied, changed his story, lied and it’s just frustrating as a fan to sit and watch these morons get away with this type of crime.”
Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season after the NFL determined the Patriots intentionally under-inflated footballs used during the 2014-15 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. After the lengthy investigation by Ted Wells, the Patriots were also fined $1 million and lost two draft picks.
Brady had appealed his suspension ahead of the 2015-16 season, but it was upheld after an appeals process. Eventually, the matter moved to federal court and his suspension was vacated and he was free to play in the season.
But after the season, a court of appeals reinstated the suspension, and Brady lost a request for a rehearing. He ultimately accepted the suspension and said he wouldn’t challenge it any longer.
Clearly, missing the four games didn’t matter for Brady and the Patriots, who had one of the most miraculous comebacks in NFL history against the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl 51.
During the Lombardi Trophy ceremony, Goodell was heavily booed by the Patriots fans that made the trek to Houston.
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2. Portnoy Initially Planned to Hand out 30,000 of Them, but Raised It to 70,000
Portnoy originally ordered 30,000 towels to be handed out around Gillette prior to the opening game, but he later upped that amount to 70,000.
“I said originally 30,000, now it’s 70,000,” Portnoy said at an impromptu “press conference.” “Because why, Roger? Two things. One, because you thought you could sneak into Gillette be like, ‘Oh, it’s over we forget. We know this bothers you.’”
Portnoy said in a blog post that the initial reception to the towels was so great that he knew he needed to raise the quantity.
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“The reaction was so overwhelming and so positive I started thinking maybe that wasn’t enough,” Portnoy wrote. “Maybe I needed to buy enough to fill the entire stadium.”
3. Portnoy Enlisted the Assistance of Volunteers to Hand out the Towels
One day before the opening game, the towels were handed out at a location a short distance away from Gillette to any fans who would be willing to help in passing them out on gameday.
Portnoy wrote in his blog posting that Barstool wasn’t allowed on Patriots property handing out the towels, so he rented a storage facility that offered to store the towels for them.
“We need volunteers to grab boxes from us and distribute to people you are tailgating with,” Portnoy wrote. “Every man helps a man. It’s Patriot Nation vs. Goodell. The North Remembers. We always will. If you can help the cause send firstname.lastname@example.org an email and he will give you the logistics. 70K towels is a ton to give away so we need as many volunteers as we can get.”
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As seen in the photo above, there were plenty of volunteers willing to help distribute the towels. However, some of those people tried to take advantage of the free towels and sell them online. Hours later, Portnoy caught wind of people trying to sell Goodell towels on eBay, and he sent his fanbase after them.
A number of social media users called out those who were selling the towels, and Portnoy ordered them to give the towels back or risk public shaming.
4. Goodell Hasn’t Been at a Patriots Regular Season Game Since ‘Deflategate’
Some fans believe Goodell has been scared about coming back to Gillette because of “Deflategate.” After all, it was the last regular season Patriots game that Goodell attended.
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In January during the NFL playoffs, Goodell attended the Falcons’ divisional round game against the Seattle Seahawks. The next week, instead of travel to see the AFC Championship game featuring the Patriots, Goodell opted to stay in Atlanta and witness the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers instead.
In August, Goodell made his triumphant return to Gillette after at two-and-a-half-year hiatus, but it was an unannounced visit and was during the preseason.
NFL Public Relations Director Brian McCarthy tweeted out a photo of Goodell standing next to three Patriots fans, and he was seen in a luxury box alongside Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
5. Portnoy Sold a Majority Stake in Barstool Last Year
Barstool has grown a significant amount recently, but started as a satirical sports and men’s lifestyle blog founded by Portnoy in Milton, Massachusetts over a decade ago. It first launched as a print publication and was distributed in the Boston area to give readers gambling advice and fantasy sports projections. As it continued to grow, it added other components and rose dramatically in popularity.
On January 7, 2016, Portnoy announced that The Chernin Group purchased a 51-percent majority stake in Barstool at a $10-15 million valuation, and it subsequently moved its headquarters to New York City. Part of the agreement was that Portnoy continued running the website and retained creative control over the content.
On July 19, 2016, Erika Nardini, the former chief marketing officer of AOL was announced as Barstool’s new CEO.
According to Alexa.com, Barstool is currently ranked as the No. 424 most popular website in the world and 1,936th globally.