FOXBOROUGH, MASS. - All told, it lasted 13 minutes.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell returned to Gillette Stadium Thursday night for the first announced visit since the start and conclusion of the Deflategate scandal. He made a surprise appearance for the Patriots' preseason opener in August, but anticipation was high for his presence at the regular–season opening game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Goodell appeared on the sidelines at 7:22 p.m. ET, and passed the majority of his time with Chiefs owner Clark Hunt. Because most of the fans were still outside the stadium gates, the boos weren’t as loud as they could’ve been, though they were notable given the size of the crowd.
He walked along the edge of the field, and eventually made his way to “Brady’s Corner,” the area at which quarterback Tom Brady ends his field-long sprint after he emerges from the locker room before the game. Fans in the area appeared to jeer and shout at him.
Then, at 7:35 p.m., Goodell walked through a tunnel and left the field. He went to an undisclosed suite in the stadium to watch the game from there.
Patriots fans have held a special anger toward Goodell since he ordered an investigation to determine whether or not the team and Brady intentionally deflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 season.
Goodell suspended Brady four games, and the case was elevated up to the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of appeals, where the decision was affirmed.
The Patriots also unveiled their fifth championship banner Thursday night after hold a pre-game celebration, which included a performance from rapper Flo Rida. Receiver Julian Edelman, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, walked out to midfield with the Lombardi Trophy in his hand.
Before the game, members of Barstool Sports handed out blue towels with a caricature of Goodell’s face on them with a clown nose. They also passed around T-shirts with the same image.
During the coin toss, fans chanted “Roger, Roger” while many waved the blue Barstool towels.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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