Emily Kaplan visited Decatur, Ill., the original home of the Chicago Bears franchise, to ask men and women on the street what they think of Roger Goodell, as the commissioner approaches 10 years on the job

By Emily Kaplan
July 20, 2016

DECATUR, Ill. — In many ways, this small city in central Illinois is quintessential Middle America. A juncture between east and west, Decatur once served as many as seven railroad lines. Abraham Lincoln is said to have given his first political speech here. Downtown features a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house and small cafes serving secret chicken salad recipes. In the essential coming of age movie of the 1980s, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Cameron's garage was left unattended in part because his mom went off antiquing in—where else?—Decatur. As for a football tie-in? This is the original home of the Chicago Bears. They were founded here, as the Decatur Staleys, before George Halas moved the team about four hours north to the Windy City.

As The MMQB explores Roger Goodell’s tenure 10 years into his commissionership, we decided to come here to ask regular folks one simple question: What do they think of the commissioner? The initial sentiment I experienced was ... apathy. The first residents I approached were a teacher, a fireman and an electrician. Turns out, none of them were NFL fans. The electrician had no idea who Roger Goodell was. The other two couldn't care less.

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But when I rounded up a few serious NFL lovers, the passion seeped through the moment they were given a platform. They hated him. They didn't trust him. Some vented about personal vendettas (and by some, I mean a Minnesota Vikings fan peeved off about the commish’s handling of Adrian Peterson discipline). A few praised his business acumen, or begrudged the difficulty of working for 32 bosses.

In all, it was no surprise, really: I left the heartland of the country realizing that Goodell has big problems in how America views him.

Your thoughts on Roger Goodell? We’ll compile and post the most thoughtful feedback to The MMQB’s week on the commissioner this Friday. Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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