Jim Nantz positions The Masters as “a tradition unlike any other” whenever the best golfers in the world gather at Augusta National in April, but I’d argue that label could also apply to another pastime we’re traditionally treated to toward the end of that month each year: Roger Goodell getting booed at the NFL Draft.
Goodell has served as the commissioner of the NFL since replacing Paul Tagliabue in 2006 and has done very, very well for himself on the financial front during his time helming the league.
The fact that he’s set to receive a lucrative contract extension is a testament to the favor he’s garnered with the owners who’ve also seen their net worths increase across the board thanks in no small part to his efforts, but based on the reception he’s subjected to whenever he steps onto the stage at the NFL Draft, most fans aren’t huge fans of the commish.
Ok Dallas booed Roger Goodell for almost as long as Philly last year…
Almost. We have that in common🤷♂️#NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/i13aj5OtW5
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) April 27, 2018
Goodell embraced his role as the villain during the virtual draft that was held during the pandemic by agreeing to be showered with boos despite hosting the event from his basement.
Roger Goodell still getting booed during virtual draft pic.twitter.com/o3xejmJPKc
— BroBible (@BroBible) April 24, 2020
By now, it seems like most people who attended the NFL Draft in person are booing Goodell on principle more than anything else.
However, I recently realized I didn’t actually know how this time-honored tradition started in the first place, so I decided to do a little bit of digging for myself and anyone else who’s in the same boat.
Why does Roger Goodell get booed at the NFL Draft?
I don’t personally have any vivid memories of watching Tagliabue serve as the master of ceremonies at the NFL Draft, but I assumed Goodell had simply shouldered a burden that was passed onto him by his predecessor.
However, that doesn’t appear to be the case when you consider the man Goodell replaced received a pretty warm welcome when he appeared on stage for the first time at the NFL Draft in 1998.
The NFL Draft was held in New York City from 1964 to 2014, and while there were plenty of boos to go around during that span, they were largely the result of disgruntled Jets and Giants fans vocally voicing their displeasure with various picks.
Goodell helmed the NFL Draft for the first time in 2007, and based on footage from the event, he was largely spared the jeering he’s become accustomed to by now.
The boos were significantly more noticeable when Goodell strolled out in 2012, but he still received his fair share of cheers and applause.
In 2015, the draft was held outside of NYC for the first time in 50 years, and by that point, the tides had officially shifted based on the deafening boos that greeted Goodell inside the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago (which stood in stark contrast to the reaction he got at Radio City Music Hall the previous year).
From there, the floodgates officially opened. Chicago was similarly hostile in 2016, and fans in Philadelphia did what they do best in 2017 to keep the momentum going.
It’s difficult to definitively point to specific factors that may have contributed to the shift that can really be traced back to 2015. We were already a few years removed from the fallout of the replacement ref debacle, and while the Deflategate investigation was in full swing at that point, it doesn’t really serve as an adequate explanation.
You could maybe argue Goodell’s handling of the national anthem protests that began in 2016 played a role in the boos in subsequent years, but the real reason is probably also the simplest: it’s much easier for a commissioner to make enemies than friends, and it’s very fun to get the chance to boo someone you dislike in person.
Regardless of the actual explanation, one thing is clear: Goodell is going to keep getting booed until someone (who will also certainly get booed) takes his place.