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The NFL season kicks off tonight in New England with a game broadcast on NBC, but the sports world buzz is about a different media company that views itself more as a league antagonist than partner: Barstool Sports.

Barstool, which was founded in Boston before relocating to New York after being purchased by The Chernin Group, is working with volunteers to distribute 70,000 towels emblazoned with the image of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as a clown, ahead of the first regular season game Goodell has attended in Foxborough since he suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role in over-inflating footballs.

Axios asked Barstool CEO Erika Nardini how she views the stunt's return on investment for the company. Her reply:

"We didn't do it for return on investment. We did it because we love Boston and Patriots Nation, and still feel really connected there and it was what we could do to help the cause. It helps us be connected to Boston which has high ROI."

Running scared: Goodell reportedly has decided to avoid being near the field once most fans begin arriving, and also won't sit in the box of Patriots owner Robert Kraft (where he would be highly visible, and likely shown both on television and on in-stadium screens).

The big unknown: How many of these towels will actually make it into the stadium. The more that do, the higher the chances that the NFL's leader will be embarrassed on his league's opening night. At least one has already gotten through the gates:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.