Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

NBC fails to mention Roger Goodell clown towels during Patriots telecast

Alex Reimer
September 08, 2017 - 1:30 am

NBC Sports told Sports Illustrated it would comprehensively cover Roger Goodell’s highly anticipated return to Gillette Stadium.

“We will show the commissioner during coverage of the game, and cover any related news appropriately,” the network said in a statement.

But as it turns out, NBC fell short of its promise. The network covered Goodell’s first meaningful post-Deflategate Foxborough visit without mentioning the clown towels. 

Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy says he printed 70,000 of those turquoise things, all for the purpose of getting under Goodell’s skin. The commissioner was reportedly furious when Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wore the shirt version home from Super Bowl LI, which prompted Portnoy to concoct the idea. It was a marketing ploy, sure, but Portnoy’s ties to the Deflategate story go deeper than most laymen. He popularized the “Free Brady” slogan and was arrested for organizing a protest at NFL headquarters. For many, including college bros in campuses across New England, the Patriots and Barstool Sports brands are synonymous with each other. 

The towels were rendered meaningless when Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill burned an idle Stephon Gilmore in the third quarter and caught a 75-yard touchdown bomb. Kansas City exploded for a 42-27 win over the Patriots, making the banner ceremony and accompanying hoopla a distant memory. 

But heading into game time, most of the mainstream focus was on Goodell –– and those darned towels. The New York Times and SI even wrote feature stories about them. This wasn’t some under-the-radar parochial news. It was a national story.

NBC didn’t shy away from referencing Goodell’s presence at the game. He was showered with boos when he walked out before kick-off, causing host Dan Patrick to incorrectly say the Chiefs had taken the field. 

Patrick quickly corrected himself.

Play-by-play man Al Michaels mentioned the “raucous crowd” in the second half, commenting how it booed Goodell “like crazy for one minute.” The towels were once again omitted. Even while briefly describing Patricia’s folk hero status –– which was lost when the Chiefs gashed the Patriots for two runs and 79 yards on a late touchdown drive –– the clown shirt wasn’t brought up. 

Gillette Stadium wasn’t a sea of turquoise Thursday. But the towels were still worth mentioning for a moment, considering NBC was committed to covering all angles of the Goodell story.