There are a number of names around the NFL that arouse disgust when they are mentioned. For example, despite some unbelievable highlight reel runs and tosses, Michael Vick is a villain until further notice. People like dogs, who can blame them? Dogs are awesome.
While nowhere near as heinous, Richard Sherman is a popular target for hate these days given his outspoken nature. Tom Brady is a good looking guy with a supermodel wife who has won four Super Bowls and has been (allegedly?) caught cheating several times, so of course people hate him. Ray Lewis for his involvement with a homicide, Aaron Hernandez for the same, Rae Carruth for having his would be baby mama killed, O.J. Simpson for being found not guilty, the list of hated NFL players and former players and the reasons for that hate are varied and interesting.
But there is a decent case to be made these days for Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, being the league's most hated man. He's brought in a lot of minor changes to the game, a few major changes, and alienated owners, players and fans alike. While there are plenty more out there who dislike the commissioner, we'll focus on those who have actually vocalized their displeasure with his performance.
20 Torrey Smith
Five year veteran wide received Torrey Smith has yet to have a sub 600 yard receiving season, but had his least impressive campaign in 2015 when he left the Baltimore Ravens for the San Francisco 49ers. He's a solid producer, but I wouldn't bet on his 2016 being much better than 2015, because the Niners still look rough this year.
Two years ago, when he was still with the Ravens, Roger Goodell hosted a significant press conference in which he talked about hitting in the NFL and the head injuries that often result. It all had to do with that pesky issue of former players having miserable post-retirement lives and dying early. During the conference, several players tweeted their thoughts on what the commissioner said. Smith said:
The implication being that while Goodell was asking for forgiveness and understanding, he often denied players in the league those same things.
19 Myles White
Wide receiver Myles White was signed undrafted by the Green Bay Packers back in 2013. He played two solid seasons for Louisiana Tech and then decided it was time to turn pro. He saw a negligible amount of time with the Packers in 2013, did nothing for 2014, and got picked up by the New York Giants in 2015. He racked up less than 100 yards, but scored one touchdown.
He commented on the same press conference as Torrey Smith. White was far more blunt and to the point, claiming "This dude is up here telling lies.. It's unbelievable". While this may have been the simplest of the tweets aimed at Goodell during his rambling, circular conference, it was also effective demonstrating what a politician he is and how he is seen by the players in the league.
18 M.D. Jennings
I'll be clear, M.D. Jennings may not actually hate Roger Goodell, but if he does, there is certainly good reason to. He most certainly should hate the commissioner. But I'll quickly give you some background on Jennings, as he is a little known figure in the league. Now a free agent, he was picked up by the Packers as an undrafted free agent back in 2011 and played three years with the organization. More recently, he spent 2014 with the Bears and 2015 on the Buccaneers' practice squad.
In 2012 he was playing free safety for the Pack and was involved in the Fail Mary. That's right, this is the safety who had an interception that somehow got ruled a touchdown for the Seahawks in that notorious call. Of course, it was the confusion of the replacement refs who caused this, and shortly after the call, Roger Goodell caved on the negotiations with the actual refs and got them back on the field.
While Jennings is probably over the outcome of that game, he should hold a grudge against the commissioner for his contribution to the replacement ref scandal.
17 Antrel Rolle
It's hard to say whether we'll ever see safety Antrel Rolle on the field again. He's 33 and has had some injury trouble in the last few years, so it's unlikely, but at the same time, he's a smart safety and a multiple Pro Bowl selection who won a Super Bowl back in 2012. He's also not fond of Roger Goodell's rules regarding hits to the head. His critique has come down to the fact that football is a fast game and, too often, there is little in the way of choice when it comes to a defender making a hit.
He made it clear back in 2012 that while his intention was never to hurt anyone, the ominous threat of fines and penalties can cause a defender to injure himself trying to avoid making an illegal hit. He was a regular critic of the commissioner's fines and penalties for hitting for some time. He makes a good point, that when a game is as fast as a professional football game, levying heavy fines and penalties like Goodell has can cause problems for defenders rather than creating a safer environment for all players.
16 Tedy Bruschi
Now a broadcaster, Tedy Bruschi spent thirteen seasons as a middle linebacker for the Patriots, winning three Super Bowls, going to a couple of Pro Bowls and being one of the most revered names in the league for coming back to play the same year as he suffered a stroke. Some guys give up after a stroke, but not Bruschi. He finished his career with 30.5 sacks and over 1,100 tackles.
In 2014, after he saw Roger Goodell's laughable press conference, he had some choice words.
"As long as Roger Goodell is leading the NFL and he's the face behind the shield, you will have the same emotions you had today watching this press conference. Listening to him speak in circles, wondering, 'Man, what is this guy talking about?
So as you continue and move forward and Roger Goodell is the commissioner, you will continue to feel that way every time you see him. In my personal opinion, being a former player that spent 13 years in this league trying to the the right thing, I want a new commissioner to lead my league. I want a new commissioner to go out there and say the right things and be that leader because right now, Roger Goodell is not that and I don't think he can ever be that. Roger Goodell needs to step down and move on."
15 Rob Gronkowski/T.J. Ward
Why are we listing these two together? Well, back in 2013, they were involved in one of the biggest hits of the year and neither blamed the other for what resulted. In December 2013, when the Browns met the Patriots, safety T.J. Ward hit Gronkowski low and Gronk ended up with a torn ACL and MCL, ending his season early. He's clearly made a full recovery and returned to being the biggest tight end threat in the league, but not everyone comes back from that kind of injury. They both knew the hit was legal and when asked how he felt about his part in the injury, Ward said that while he never wanted to hurt anyone on the field, he knew he would have been fined and his team would have been penalized if he had gone for a high hit.
In this instance, like so many others, Goodell's rules have gotten in the way of how players do their jobs, and their safety is in jeopardy in a different way than it was to begin with.
14 Eric Winston
Cincinnati Bengals tackle Eric Winston is the President of the NFLPA on top of his on-field job. He's a busy man, and he is no fan of the NFL commissioner. His most recent jab at Goodell happened shortly after the Laremy Tunsil controversy at the 2016 draft. For some background, Tunsil was an amazing lineman at Mississippi and was considered the best tackle in the 2016 draft. Shortly before the draft, a video of him smoking from a bong was posted to Twitter and he fell from the top 10. This isn't a huge deal, but it was big news. Goodell referred to the entire situation as "exciting."
Winston responded to this word choice with "It just shows you where their head's at. It just shows you that they can care less that this kid's world just fell apart in a matter of three hours" in an interview with ESPN. He made an interesting point. Many players consider Goodell a guy who sees them as chess pieces or money machines. Winston also said that a running joke among he and his fellow players was that Goodell's leadership reminded them of Xerxes from the film 300.
13 Darius Butler
Indianapolis Colts utility defensive back Darius Butler has been an unremarkable but still decent part of their subpar defense since 2012. He usually starts a few games a year and has shown himself to be capable on either side of the field at corner, while also being okay for safety duties. But at the same time, nobody wants him as a starter.
Like so many others, Butler weighed in on the aforementioned press conference and tore commissioner Goodell a new one. He tweeted:
This press conference is pointless— Darius Butler (@DariusJButler) September 19, 2014
Media could have saved a lot of $ and time and just asked him these questions on twitter. Much easier to ignore and answer what u want here.— Darius Butler (@DariusJButler) September 19, 2014
He makes a decent point, that Goodell, no matter the topic, will only answer those questions he wants to answer and has a safe response for. Butler, like so many others, is unsatisfied with the poor leadership he sees in the NFL's leadership.
12 Sidney Rice
Wide receiver Sidney Rice had one amazing year in the NFL and six that were alright but ultimately suffered a ton of injuries. He retired at age 27, saying that he wanted to be functional by the end of his career, was done with the game and wanted to move on and help people in his retirement. It helps that he won the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks after the 2013 season. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2009 after an unbelievable year catching passes from Brett Favre with the Minnesota Vikings.
In 2014, a few months after his retirement, Rice went on Twitter to voice his opinion on Roger Goodell's infamous press conference. His message was short, simple and gets the idea across.
Boo this man... 👻— Sidney Rice (@sidneyrice) September 19, 2014
Throughout Rice's career he racked up a ton of frequent flyer miles at the hospital, injuring his hip, sustaining a few concussions and a knee injury, his choice to retire young had a lot to do with concerns over his mental health later in life.
11 Brian Urlacher
Playing 13 years with the Chicago Bears, Brian Urlacher is one of the most memorable linebackers since the turn of the century. An absolute machine and freak athlete; watching Urlacher roam the field and get in on nearly every play was awesome. He retired with over 1300 tackles, eight Pro Bowl trips and four All-Pro selections.
Back in 2010 after a game against the Miami Dolphins, he weighed in on some of the early rule changes that messed with how defensive players could operate. He told NFL Network "I don't like the rule, I don't think any defensive player likes it. It's not going to effect the way we play. We're still going to try to separate the ball from the player, that's what we do as defense. We've been taught that since we were kids, that's what we're going to try to keep doing." He later offered up a gem of a quote in which he called Goodell a dictator asking, "What can you do though? It's a dictatorship. If Goodell wants to fine you he's going to fine you, that's the way it goes and that's just the way it is."
10 Scott Fujita
An eleven year veteran of four teams, Scott Fujita won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints during the 2009 season. After the 2009 season, he signed a three year deal with the Cleveland Browns. Due to injuries and that pesky Saints bounty scandal, Fujita did not play a full season for the Browns.
In that bounty controversy, for those who forgot or weren't paying attention back then, players and coaches had a system in which players could benefit financially for big hits or injuries they inflict on certain opposing players. This happens pretty often and in amateur sports as well, but it is still incredibly unsportsmanlike. Fujita is considered to have been an innocent figure in the bounty system who was penalized by Goodell anyway. Fujita criticized Goodell's handling of the controversy, saying that he was abusing his power and criticizing his treatment of players as well.
9 Drew Brees
We'll follow Scott Fujita up with his quarterback from that Super Bowl winning season. Drew Brees is 37 now but his performance isn't slowing down. The Saints didn't have a great 2015, but Brees came out of it with a 68.3 completion percentage, a 101.0 passer rating, and almost three times as many touchdown passes as interceptions. He's one of the best in the game and during the Bountygate scandal, he said some things a few other Saints said.
More recently Brees was asked for his thoughts on Deflategate. He said that the commissioner has too much power and that his actions were amounting to an embarrassment for the sport. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Brees said that "I think we would all agree that he definitely has too much power. He is judge, jury and executioner when it comes to all the discipline. I'm not going to trust any league-led investigation when it comes to anything. It's not transparent."
8 The Mary-Jane Suspension List
Roger Goodell is unquestionably and inexplicably dedicated to continuing to punish players who are found to have ingested marijuana. I'm not talking about guys who have gotten caught being high as clouds while driving, those guys have earned their punishment. But for the guys who test positive for pot or get arrested for possession and get punished by the league, there needs to be some change. Smoking a plant that makes pain go away and mellows people out for a few hours is pretty harmless. Destroying careers over dope is just another example of how Roger Goodell panders to a few dinosaurs who still care about this nonsense.
Josh Gordon is among these guys, Justin Blackmon as well, but his problems involve a DUI so I can't feel as much sympathy. Finally, the most notable recent year long suspension was dealt to Martavis Bryant, who was suspended four games for pot back in 2015, and possibly something else back in March, which got him a year. To paraphrase Robin Williams: marijuana isn't performance enhancing unless there are snacks at the end of the performance. Goodell's dedication to outdated drug policies is a joke.
7 Jay Feely
A former kicker who played for six different teams over a fourteen year career, Jay Feely now works as a commentator. He also worked with the NFLPA. An interesting point can be made about Feely, that back in 2009 one of the New York Jets equipment managers was suspended after trying to "use unapproved equipment to" alter balls that would be used in a game. The kicker at the time was Feely. The employee was suspended, but nobody even considered investigating Feely. It is an interesting possible parallel situation to what has been going on with Tom Brady recently. But more on that later. When asked for his opinion on Darth Goodell, Feely said somewhat diplomatically that among most of the players he had spoken to throughout the league, there was an almost universal "distrust for him" and the people around him in the organization.
6 Marshawn Lynch
Beast Mode has never explicitly said that he dislikes Roger Goodell, but we can read between the lines. His entertaining little rebellion against the media during his last two seasons in the league was hilarious and, of course, it was largely a slight to Goodell and NFL contracts that force players to talk to the media. Put yourself in his shoes; you've just plowed through people, been hit time and time again, you're tired, and not a huge glory-seeker and just want to play a game, but when you're finished, a bunch of people want to ask you stupid questions.
On top of his attitude toward the media, Goodell criticized Lynch for wearing a BeastMode hat to a press conference. One thing we all know about Lynch is that he just wants to play the game. The contract is one thing, but Goodell's treatment of and attitude toward players is exemplified further by the fines he levies against these guys for pathetic technicalities. After nine years, five Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl ring and quite a few headaches caused by the league's terrible leadership, we can all imagine Beast Mode is very thankful to be retired. He probably retired so he doesn't get fined anymore.
5 Tom Brady
While Marshawn Lynch has been on the receiving end of plenty of Goodell "justice," nobody has made it into the football Czar's crosshairs more often than Tom Brady. Deflategate is just the most recent of the Patriots' scandals, but it has spiralled into an ongoing rivalry between Goodell and Brady.
Brady's resume speaks for itself. Four Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVP awards, 11 Pro Bowl selections...it goes on, but you get the point. But with these Deflategate proceedings that just seem to go on and on, it almost looks like Goodell has made it his personal goal to taint Tom's terrific reputation. For this vendetta, we have to imagine that Tom Brady has developed a serious case of contempt for the commissioner. Cheater or not, Brady is a pretty classy guy, so no matter how much he despises Goodell, we'll likely never hear about it.
4 James Harrison
The Silverback is no stranger to controversy. James Harrison is a hard-hitting, occasionally dirty gem of an undrafted outside linebacker who the Steelers have been lucky enough to keep around for a long time. He's made five Pro Bowls, won two Super Bowls, including one that saw him complete a 100 yard pick-six.
He's been fined a few times for dirty hits and definitely holds a grudge against Goodell. When asked for his thoughts on the commissioner, Harrison has said "I hate him and will never respect him" and of course, the truly classy "if he was on fire and I had to p** him out, I wouldn't do it," At least he's honest. Genuine statements like this are a breath or fresh air when compared to some of the athletes out there who try to keep all their comments pleasant.
3 Richard Sherman
As we pointed out in the introduction, one of the most polarizing characters in the NFL today is Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. On the one hand, he's a highly intelligent young man, well spoken when he wants to be, and one of the hardest working people in the league. On the other hand, he's considered arrogant, and unsportsmanlike, ever since his behavior at the end of the NFC Championship in 2014.
A couple of months ago, Sherman spoke up against Roger Goodell's proposal to automatically eject any player who committed two personal fouls in a single game. Sherman said "I think it's foolish, but it sounds like something somebody who's never played the game would say, something that they would suggest, because he doesn't understand. He's just a face. He's just a suit. He's never stepped foot on the field and understood how you can get a personal foul."
Like many of these players, he has a great point. Roger Goodell is a mutant hybrid of a politician crossed with a businessman. Sherman also indicated that because bureaucrats were in charge of the rule for what constitutes a catch, there has been too much media coverage of such a small issue. He argued that if guys who spent their life playing the game, such as Randy Moss and Jerry Rice were to sit down for 20 minutes, the issue would be solved.
2 Jonathan Vilma
Jonathan Vilma, a hard-hitting linebacker who played from 2004 to 2013 for the Jets and then the Saints, was suspended for all of the 2012 season in the Bountygate scandal. The suspension was overturned and Vilma played most of the season. Vilma has not let this go (nor should he) however and has ripped Goodell on a few occasions.
He co-owns a restaurant in Miami and placed a picture of Goodell in a very prominent spot in the restaurant with the caption "DO NOT SERVE THIS MAN." He also took Goodell to court for his handling of the Bountygate scandal, saying that it was a case of defamation against the Saints defenders involved. The case was thrown out of court, but the judge did admit that Goodell and the other executives involved did a terrible job handling the controversy.
More recently Vilma weighed in on the Ray Rice issue. He argued that the league and especially Goodell had not done enough to gather evidence and also that Goodell's eventual action against Rice was not the right action and was not taken swiftly enough.
1 Ryan Clark
For those unfamiliar with the name, Ryan Clark was a free safety who played with the Giants, Redskins, and Steelers. His most successful years were with the Steelers, where he played alongside Troy Polamalu. He won a Super Bowl with the Steelers in 2009 and was selected to one Pro Bowl. He was also a hard, and from time to time, dirty hitter. Willis McGahee, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker were all among his victims.
Clark was also a leading member in the NFLPA for a couple of years and offered his own insight earlier this year after Richard Sherman's comments on Goodell's "leadership." Clark said, in an interview with ESPN: "when you've been in those meetings and you've been through labor negotiations, and you see how Roger Goodell and the owners feel about the players, the things that were said to the players during this time, you develop a hate -- you really do, and sometimes you can't see through that hate. Sometimes it factors into all of your thoughts about the NFL, about the owners, about Roger Goodell."
In Clark's view, Goodell sees players as little more than money making tools, and most players are aware of it and hate him for it.