NFL commissioner Roger Goodell returned to Foxboro last night for his first regular season game since he handed the Patriots their punishment for Deflategate, and he was greeted enthusiastically by the local fans. And by enthusiastically, I mean there were tens of thousands of neon blue towels throughout the stadium with Goodell’s cartoon face and a clown nose.
The design, the work of rapidly ascending sports media company Barstool Sports, exploded in popularity right after the Super Bowl, when Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was spotted coming off the plane from Houston wearing a Goodell clown shirt. League sources said that Goodell was “miffed” after seeing the picture, but that was only the opening act.
Almost everyone who follows sports in Boston is aware of Barstool Sports and its many controversies. Led by their eccentric founder Dave Portnoy, Barstool Sports has grown from a local Boston paper magazine to an internet powerhouse over the last decade. No media outlet was louder in their disdain for Roger Goodell during Deflategate. In fact, Portnoy and three other employees handcuffed themselves to the floor of the NFL headquarters in May 2015 in protest and spent the night in jail.
According to Portnoy, he bought 70,000 Goodell clown towels and distributed them to ticket holders at the tailgate before the game. And on Route 1 South towards Gillette stadium, he bought a full size billboard ad.
The movement was covered by several local media outlets, including CSN New England and WEEI, but was never discussed on the NBC live broadcast for obvious reasons. But based on the pictures from the stands during the game, Portnoy succeeded. Despite a disappointing performance on the field, fans mocked Goodell all night long.
Look at all of that turquoise. Roger Goodell clown nose towels and shirts are all over the place pic.twitter.com/xVKXsu8pbU— Kevin Dillon (@ByKevinDillon) September 8, 2017
While Deflategate may be far in the rearview mirror, the animosity for Roger Goodell amongst Patriots fans remains. For some, it will be a lifetime grudge.