As PFT reported over the weekend, NFL owners met privately last week to commence the process of planning for the negotiation of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s next contract. This presumes that Goodell wants one.
Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, that question was directly posed to Goodell last week as he was exiting the press conference that concluded the annual meeting. Goodell declined to comment.
Goodell, as Kaplan notes, has leverage. With Goodell’s current deal expiring in 2019, and given that the labor deal and TV contracts expire early next decade, the league arguably needs Goodell more than Goodell needs the league. Especially since he’s undoubtedly saved more than enough money to walk away at what would be the age of 60.
Some NFL owners, as PFT has explained, want to use their leverage. More specifically, Jerry Jones, an influential owner not currently on the Compensation Committee, wants the contract to be negotiated by all owners, and not by just a handful of them.
The league’s official committee assignments as of 2016 show Falcons owner Arthur Blank (chairman), Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Texans owner Bob McNair, Giants co-owner John Mara, and Steelers owner Art Rooney II as the members of the group. (Kaplan reports that the list as of 2016 is the same as of now.) Whether Jones is simply miffed because he was omitted from the committee or whether he genuinely believes all owners should have a voice in the process, Jones has argued for greater involvement and oversight, in an effort to perhaps reduce the total expenditure on the Commissioner’s compensation package.
Outsiders have argued that the job could be competently filled at a much lower annual rate. The counter is that the Commissioner deserves to be rewarded based on the immense financial growth of the league (even if some would say no specific thing he actually did has caused it). Also, because Goodell routinely moves in the same circles as network executives who make many multiple millions per year, there’s a school of thought that Goodell needs to be in that same stratosphere.
Five years ago, in the aftermath of the lockout, the NFL disclosed that Goodell actually made less than former NFL Network chief Steve Bornstein in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2011, with Goodell getting $11.554 million and Bornstein receiving $12.2 million. That changed dramatically a year later, with Goodell getting nearly $30 million over the next 12 months and Bornstein’s pay dropping to $5.7 million.
The lockout and its aftermath seems to have triggered the massive jump in Goodell’s pay, which moved to $44.2 million the next year.
For now, the question is whether the NFL can get away with saving maybe $1 million per team per year on Commissioner compensation, knocking the package back into the range it occupied before the last lockout. While not much money for a collection of billion-dollar businesses, those businesses didn’t grow by overpaying employees.
The league, led by the Commissioner, has done an effective job of negotiating favorable terms at all times. This time, the league and its Commissioner could eventually be locked in a stare down with millions at stake -- and with the Commissioner’s nuclear option arising from his ability to say, “All right. That’s it for me!”