Roger Goodell makes light of hostile reception in New Orleans

A photo of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with the words "Do Not Serve" hangs behind the bar inside the Parkview Tavern in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

NEW ORLEANS NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made light of the reception he's gotten in New Orleans, where he is unpopular with Saints fans because of the bounty scandal.

Goodell joked that his picture is in every restaurant, he has a float in the Mardi Gras parade and there's even a voodoo doll.

In a more serious vein, he said that while he gets comments from fans around town, everyone in New Orleans has been receptive and that the city is a great place to have a Super Bowl.

He said he welcomes the passion of fans supporting the team and that they are a big part of the game.

New Orleans has a complex relationship with Goodell.

On one hand, fans are upset over the way he handled the bounty scandal. On the other hand, many are thankful the NFL brought the Super Bowl back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the city in 2005.

With restaurants and bars gearing up for an influx of Super Bowl XLVII visitors, there's already a "Refuse to Serve Roger Goodell" page on Facebook.

A photo of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is seen on a dartboard inside the Parkview Tavern in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

A portrait of Goodell covers the bull's-eye on the dart board at Parkview Tavern. An effigy of the NFL commissioner dangles from the front porch of a New Orleans home that is otherwise festively decorated with Saints paraphernalia.

And floats in the unabashedly lowbrow Krewe du Vieux parade in the French Quarter last weekend displayed larger-than-life likenesses of Goodell in acts that defy polite description.

"They believe he completely used the Saints as an example of something that was going on league-wide," said Pauline Patterson, co-owner of Finn McCool's, an Irish Bar in the Mid-City neighborhood where the words "Go To Hell Goodell" are visible over the fireplace.

Goodell's popularity is also taking a hit in NFL locker rooms. In fact, 61 percent of players disapprove of Goodell, according to a recent poll conducted by USA Today.

Some of Goodell's critics in New Orleans say the disarray resulting from what they believe were unfair suspensions led to the Saints' 7-9 performance this year — and a missed chance to make history.

"We had a real shot of being the first team in history to host the Super Bowl in our own stadium," Parkview Tavern owner Kathy Anderson said. "He can't give that back to us."

Goodell suspended the coaches and players after an investigation found the Saints had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned, but the coaches served their punishments.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu is among those saying that people in this city, known for its hospitality and history, should mind their manners and remember the not-too-distant past.

"Roger Goodell has been a great friend to New Orleans, and it's a fact that he's one of the people instrumental to making sure that the Saints stayed here after Hurricane Katrina," Landrieu said in a statement. It was a reference to the days after the storm, when 80 percent of the city was underwater and the damaged Superdome became a shelter for thousands of the displaced.

Then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his second-in-command, Goodell, are credited with working to keep the team from abandoning New Orleans for San Antonio.

"If not for Roger Goodell, we would not have this Super Bowl," Landrieu added. "And we will need him since we want to host another one."