Why do fans boo Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft?

The yearly tradition is as much a part of draft weekend as the selections themselves.
2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7
2023 NFL Draft - Rounds 4-7 / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Every year, as the NFL Draft approaches, fans in attendance at the live event eagerly anticipate one particular moment: the chance to boo NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It has become a tradition unto itself, as much a part of the festivities as making the actual player selections.

As the Commissioner of the NFL, Goodell is the face of the league. With that comes the burden of unpopular decisions and perceived bias, and NFL fans don't hold back when they feel the league has gotten decisions wrong.

"Deflategate" was the prime example. When the scandal involving the New England Patriots and Tom Brady erupted, Goodell's role in the ensuing penalties, especially Brady's suspension, drew widespread criticism. Patriots fans, in particular, were relentless in their disdain for the Commissioner.

The yearly tradition of booing the commish is as much a part of draft weekend as the selections themselves.

But it's not all about one incident. Fans see Goodell as an outlet for their ire in charge of a sport they passionately love. Sometimes, the booing might not even be tied to a specific decision but rather just a pushback against the bureaucracy and red tape that gets in the way at times. That stems from confusing rules ("What constitutes a catch?") to a lack of accountability for punishments and fines and ongoing officiating concerns that the league does nothing about.

And so, each year, as Goodell stepped onto the stage at the NFL Draft, the boos rain down. It's a cacophony of disapproval, but also a strange kind of unity among fans of rival teams. They might disagree on everything else, but in that moment, they're united in their jeers of the NFL Commissioner.

Goodell, to his credit, always takes it in stride. He's learned to expect it, even embrace it. As the boos reached a crescendo, he'll often flash a wry smile or make a playful gesture, acknowledging the tradition that has taken on a life of its own. He leans into the heel role in these moments and it only cements the tradition even further.

Amidst the excitement of new prospects being drafted, the boos for Goodell have become a unique and beloved part of the NFL Draft experience. It's a moment of catharsis for fans, a chance to let their voices be heard, and a reminder that even in the world of sports, authority figures are not immune to the passion of the fans.