Roger Goodell booed by fans

NEW YORK -- Football fans got their first chance to be heard directly by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday night.

They didn't mince any words.

A wave of boos echoed through Radio City Music Hall before the 2011 NFL draft started as Goodell took the stage, followed by a chant of "We want football!"

Goodell, at the podium, looked up into the balconies, saying, "I hear you. So do I."

But fans didn't ease up.

"It was awesome," Carroll Papajohn of New York said. "I think it really shows the passion fans have for the game. Nobody wants to see the game end over the [Collective Bargaining Agreement]."

Bo Yanker of Atlanta said: "Goodell has been unprofessional. It's ridiculous that a deal can't be put together by now."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the commissioner and the league expected the fans' frustration.

"We get it," McCarthy said. "The commish will tell you he's the biggest football fan in the world. That's why he's been in the business for 30 years. We're frustrated too. [The fans] have every right to express themselves.

"We want to make a deal that makes sense for everyone. We're just not there yet."

Goodell responded via Twitter, saying, "I agree with fans here at Radio City. We want football. I'm with you, I get it."

George Chaung, who works for an investment bank in New York, said he didn't boo Goodell because he understands the negotiations are complicated and "each side has its points."

But he also understands why the fans booed so heartily.

"Because we want football," Chaung said. "That's the message right there. It's a message to the players and the owners."

Paul Cavallo of Staten Island agreed this was the fans' opportunity to make their case.

"We're the ones that are going to lose out on something that we enjoy doing," he said. "If it wasn't for the fans, there'd be no players and no owners. It's just two babies sharing one ball. I want the ball, you want the ball. It shouldn't be like that."

Goodell came out again, smiling, to announce the Carolina Panthers' No. 1 pick, Cam Newton. "Welcome to the 2011 NFL draft," he said, nearly drowned out by the fans.

The commissioner earned his first cheers a second later, when he added, "Let's get back to some football."

David Wilson is a staff writer for ESPN.com.