Sports

What It Was Like to Sit in Roger Goodell’s Chair at the NFL Draft

Goodell stands next to Smith, sitting in his chair, at the NFL Draft on flat-screen television
The man, the chair. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo via drivenbyboredom/Twitter.

The NFL Draft returned with a live audience on Thursday, but there was one vestige of 2020’s socially distanced event on display: The big leather chair Roger Goodell sat on in his basement during later-round selections last year was shipped to Cleveland and placed prominently on stage. Throughout the night, a fan of each organization was invited to occupy Goodell’s lounger while their team made their pick.

Miami Dolphins superfan Nate “Igor” Smith was selected for this tremendous honor during his team’s second pick (and 18th overall) of the evening. I spoke with Smith over the phone to learn more about the humbling experience. Our interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

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Nick Greene: How many NFL drafts have you attended in person?

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Nate “Igor” Smith: I remember the first one I went to was 2008. I’ve only missed a few, so I’d say 10.

How did you find out you were selected to sit in the chair?

It’s sort of complicated. First you need to know that each team had 12 fans that were allowed to sit near the stage. I was one of those 12, so the group they were picking from was relatively small. They told me right before I went on. Maybe one pick earlier. They just picked me.

Is there one specific person with that job? Does the chair have a handler?

I’m not sure if there’s more than one. There must have been several because they had previous people who were on and someone else was in the chair before I was.

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Did they tell you how to behave in the chair? No shenanigans and whatnot?

No. It was all very quick. They just told me, “Hey, someone’s going to hand you a jersey and you stand up with the jersey when the pick is called. Once the pick’s called you hand it to them.”

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Were you disappointed that [18th pick of the draft] Jaelan Phillips didn’t show up so you didn’t get to hand him his jersey?

It would have been cool if he was there.

He would have been able to see Roger Goodell’s chair. You think that would be enough to lure him to Cleveland.

[Laughs.] It seems like a lot to have to wait there. The players don’t get paid for that. They just sort of have to be humiliated if they’re picked later. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to just hang out with your family in your living room.

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Did Roger Goodell talk to you on stage?

Yeah. He introduced himself. He told me to enjoy the chair. When he came out with the pick he showed me the pick and asked if I liked it.

Was the chair comfortable?

It was very comfortable, yeah.

I know that, sometimes, beefy leather chairs like that are less comfortable than they look. They’re “showroom chairs.”

No, it was a great chair.

Did the chair have a smell?

I don’t remember the smell.

I ask because I saw a lot of people on Twitter say that they would have farted in Roger Goodell’s chair. Did that thought cross your mind?

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It did not.

Did you fart?

I did not.

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There’s a conspiracy theory that I would like to start, which is that it wasn’t Goodell’s actual chair. Why would they ship it from his house when they could easily buy a chair in Cleveland? So, what I want to know is, did the chair seem to have much wear and tear? Or did it seem like a new chair to you?

No, it was definitely a well-worn chair. I can’t speak to it being his actual chair, but it was definitely somebody’s chair at some point.

Wow. Conspiracy debunked.

Yep.

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