Per Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will not be attending the AFC championship at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Goodell has not been to Gillette Stadium since the 2014 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, the game that started the whole ‘DeflateGate’ scandal.
Why is it such a big story this time? Well, Commissioner Goodell visited the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia to watch the NFC divisional matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. Since the Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the upset, the NFC Championship game will be hosted by the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
It is rare for a commissioner (in any sport) to visit the same stadium in back-to-back weekends, especially since he has not visited the stadium in about 2 years.
The reason is obvious. Roger Goodell handed down a severe punishment for what was considered a minor equipment infraction, suspending star quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season, and docking the Patriots their first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and their fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Not only that, but Goodell handed down a one million dollar fine on the Patriots organization.
Tom Brady was able to fight his way out of the suspension, but only for one season. The Supreme Court ruled in favor for commissioner Goodell to be able to freely discipline players, per the NFL CBA, so the suspension was reinstated, and Brady was forced to miss the first four games of the 2016 NFL season.
No harm, no foul, since the Patriots have advanced to an NFL-record sixth straight conference appearance, and will be looking to make their 7th Super Bowl appearance since 2001, an incredible feat. Nonetheless, if Roger Goodell had returned to Gillette Stadium, the boos would have rained on him louder than any commissioner would have endured in recent memory. In Patriot territory, Roger Goodell is public enemy #1.
If Tom Brady wishes to see the commissioner soon, he will have to do it by winning his 5th Super Bowl, when Goodell hands the winner the Lombardi Trophy and the accompanying Super Bowl MVP trophy. If the Patriots do end up winning the Super Bowl, it is no guarantee that commissioner Goodell will attend Gillette Stadium for the first game of the NFL season, since he did not appear there after the 2014 Super Bowl the Patriots won.
For Patriots fans hoping to shower Goodell with boos, they will have to wait until, at least, next NFL season.