NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has some super surprises for deserving fans in Chicago

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks to members of the Wounded Warrior Project during a visit to a Chicago diner on Sunday morning.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the day of some Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens fans Sunday — even though their teams did not.

Before attending the Bears’ playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Goodell made a couple of surprise pop-ins around Chicago, buying breakfast for everyone at a popular diner then stopping by a Ravens bar to chat with fans watching the Chargers-Baltimore game.

“The fans make the difference,” Goodell said. “It’s good to see them and hear from them.”

The visits were part of the league’s “Super Bowl Surprise” program, one Goodell started last season in which he surprises fans with free Super Bowl tickets, focusing on members of the military, extraordinary fans, participants and supporters of youth and high school football, and those who make an impact in their community.

Goodell has participated in more than a dozen of the giveaways, and each of the 32 clubs has followed suit in some fashion.


Sunday, he visited the iconic Lou Mitchell’s diner, which was filled with Bears fans, and the George Street Pub, a Ravens bar. At the diner, he surprised three veterans — Charles Hackney, Anwar Berry, and Joe Daniels — with Super Bowl tickets in part to thank them for their work with the Wounded Warrior Project. They simply thought they had been invited to breakfast, and had not been informed that Goodell would be there, or that each would receive a ticket to the league’s marquee game.

“This is amazing,” said Hackney, 36. “We’re just every-day, ordinary people taking care of our families. To have the commissioner of the NFL come to a diner in Chicago and have breakfast with us, hang out with us … It’s wild.”

Asked if he planned to go to the Super Bowl with or without his Bears, Hackney didn’t hesitate.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I’m going to be there, baby.”

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer