As the draft continues to make major changes, one key aspect will stay the same: The assembled crowd will have the ability to boo the Commissioner, loudly.
Per the league office, Roger Goodell will continue to stride to and from the podium, calling out the names of each of the players taken in the first round of the draft on Thursday night, April 26 in Arlington, Texas. He’ll adhere to the ritual despite concerns among some within the league’s power structure that it’s not good for The Shield when Goodell feels like he should be hiding behind one in such a public setting.
As the draft becomes even more of a spectacle (this year, the first two nights will be broadcast by FOX, NFL Network, and ESPN), the crowds get larger and the boos necessarily become louder. With the draft happening this year at the Cowboys’ home stadium, and in light of the league’s decision to suspend Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games last season, the locals in attendance will feel even more compelled to make plenty of noise each time the Commissioner makes an appearance.
Last year, the league tried on the second night of the draft in Philadelphia to use fan favorites like Ron Jaworski to serve as a buffer for Goodell. It didn’t work; Jaworski was cheered, and Goodell was booed. By day three, Goodell was no longer to be seen.
For his part, Goodell seems to not be bothered by the booing. (At times, he welcomes it.) Still, the league needs to ask itself whether it makes sense to essentially embrace such hostility on one of the biggest nights of the year. Others could easily be found who would be greeted by the crowd with praise and adulation. At some point, someone may need to persuade Goodell that this would be a much better look (and sound) for the NFL.