Amid legal wrangles and existential concerns over the future of American football, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to earn a fat wad of cash.
ESPN reports that Goodell, who took over as commissioner from Paul Tagliabue in 2006, should finalize the details of a contract extension in the next few days or weeks after a meeting with the NFL’s “compensation committee” on Wednesday that consists of six franchise owners.
"It's done from ownership perspective," ESPN quoted an unnamed source as saying. Goodell’s current contract, which paid him $32 million in 2015, the last year his salary was disclosed, ends in 2019.
Perhaps more intriguing than Goodell’s salary—$32 million earned in 2015 is more than Matthew Stafford, the NFL’s highest-paid player ever, will earn on average for the next five years of his contract—is the reaction of certain NFL owners to the news. The report claims Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, “raised issues” about Goodell’s new deal. Jones, it is claimed, thinks Goodell makes “way too much money.”
Under Goodell the NFL has set itself ambitious revenue targets. The league expects to make $14 billion in 2017 while Goodell has set a target of $25 billion in annual revenue by 2025.
Against that financial growth—the NFL generated $8 billion annually as recently as 2010—Goodell has faced controversies on his watch, including the handling of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s domestic violence case. In an August 2014 letter to NFL owners, Goodell apologized to NFL owners for only giving Rice an initial two-game suspension. After video emerged of Rice knocking out his then fiancée in an elevator Goodell extended the ban indefinitely, only for that decision to be overturned in court.
Goodell remains unpopular in New England for the “deflategate” saga, which resulted in a four-game suspension for Tom Brady at the start of the 2016-2017 season. Goodell’s tenure has also been marked by the NFL’s public-relations struggle around brain injuries and their aftereffects. The NFL is currently engaged in a high-profile legal battle surrounding the domestic violence case of Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys running back.
As the highest-profile face of the business side of the NFL, Goodell has taken considerable buckshot. But he survives and prospers because the NFL’s business is, on the bottom line, booming. That looks likely to win him more years in the league’s top job.
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