Goodell heartily booed by fans at NFL draft

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was booed before the draft began in New York

NEW YORK – Even before commissioner Roger Goodell could announce the first pick of the 2011 NFL draft, the notoriously opinionated fans here let him know what they think of the current lockout.

"We want football," the crowd gathered at Radio City Music Hall chanted over and over. That was later followed by a hearty round of boos for Goodell.

Goodell was merely welcoming everyone to the show, which was still a half hour from beginning.

Goodell surely knew the negative reaction was coming and he looked prepared, although he seemed a bit befuddled and frustrated. He finally got the fans to stop booing by announcing that he wanted to address the tragic storms in the south that have resulted in deaths this week.

Later when he announced the Carolina Panthers were "officially on the clock" with the first pick, he battled to the get the words out through more boos, jeers and then "we want football" chants. He was then booed again when he announced the Panthers' selection of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton was booed also, which isn't uncommon for the first pick.

This has been a rough week for the NFL, which has lost numerous legal battles in its nearly two-month-old lockout of the players' association. It also appears to be losing the public relations battle as fans increasingly are blaming owners for the labor impasse.

In sports labor battles, it's usually the players that catch most of the heat. Fair or not, they are often seen as greedy and overpaid.

Now the tables appear to have turned on the NFL owners, who forced the work stoppage in early March by initially demanding the players give back $1 billion of their share of the $9-plus billion in annual revenue the league generates.