Roger Goodell – The $29.5m Man

Sometimes the amount of money thrown around in the form of bonuses really is  PH2006080800953unconscionably sickening. It emerged this week that Roger Goodell was cashing in take-home pay around $29.5m this year, just a season after symbolically reducing his wage to $1 until the new CBA was hammered out and the NFL lockout was lifted.

That is almost a three-fold increase on his last pay-check from the league and is comprised largely of a ‘performance-tied bonus’ of $22.3m.  Thanks to his new five-year contract he can expect to rake in upwards of $20m per season with bonuses being a major part of that take home wage packet.

I can see no justification whatsoever for such a completely ludicrous sum of money, no matter how much the owners want to dress it up and claim that Goodell has done a sterling job at the head of the league. Let’s face it, at this point the NFL’s success is practically unstoppable. Anyone at the helm would have to be a spectacular incompetent to somehow pick out rocks into which to steer the $9bn juggernaut, so the sheer size and financial might of the institution itself should not automatically lead to a massive take-home slice for its commissioner, especially when his actual performance is far more in question than that.

His real impact in the CBA negotiations is debatable, but at the very least he was unable to prevent the farce that was replacement officials, not to mention the drawn out mess that was the lockout in the first place.


For the incessant crusade on player safety under Goodell’s stewardship the NFL still has to be forced kicking and screaming to contribute more to retired players – the players who sacrificed their bodies, their minds and their health to this game long before anybody was making multi-millions of dollars and who now find themselves struggling just to pay the terrific toll that took on them.

This is the part that I have the biggest issue with. Almost everybody in today’s NFL is well compensated. This has not been the case for the majority of the league’s history, and now that the league actually has the wealth and financial might to do something about it, they choose instead to just throw symbolic money at a figurehead.

In the new CBA, the NFL agreed to up the money it spends and contribute something in the region of $62m per year to the Legacy Fund that would go towards helping these retired players from the pre-riches era. For a $9bn industry built on the blood, sweat, tears and broken bodies of these thousands of men that seems like an incredibly crappy allocation of resources when Goodell’s bonuses are taken into consideration. The NFL could still pay Goodell almost $10m a season – hardly an insult to any top executive – and add over 30% to the Legacy Fund contributions with the extra $20m they’re saving on the deal. Would anybody have a problem with that? 892999

Even if the league plan on dialing back his bonus in the future years of his contract we could still be looking at around $60m over the course of his five-year deal that could be going towards players who are struggling to walk, who can’t afford the hospital bills needed just to dull the pain they’re now suffering after years of being battered on the gridiron.

Am I really the only person who sees that as a better place to spend money than on Roger Goodell’s personal trust fund?

During the economic boom times the world developed an attitude towards frivolous spending, especially when it came to top executives. Bonuses were handed out automatically simply by being attached to a company with colossal turnover. Nobody ever actually found a way to tie those ‘performance related bonuses’ to performance in any real and quantifiable way, and so they just became expected and demanded. This attitude got the world into a hole that it is still struggling to climb out of, and yet many industries seem to have learned nothing from the whole process.

Roger Goodell sits atop one of the most successful enterprises in the world – a $9bn sports conglomerate that continues to conquer all in its path and expand relentlessly – but he has done little to earn a $22.3m bonus that could be more fairly spent on the thousands of players that played this game before the notion of million-dollar pay-days ever entered anybody’s minds.

Today even players that will have a short career have a chance to set themselves up financially for life with a stint in the NFL. Signing bonuses can routinely reach into seven-figures and the average NFL player earned $1.9m in 2012, with the veteran minimum of at least $595,000.

In the 1950s the average salary was just $6,000. Even adjusted for inflation that is only around $50,000 in today’s money, for a job many players would have for just a couple of seasons before injury or the business side forced them into the real-world. I’m not saying that’s a terrible wage, but put it this way – would you accept never being able to walk again without a limp for a $50k wage in the next three years? I sure as hell wouldn’t.


It wasn’t until 1970 that the owners agreed to a minimum salary at all, and at just $9,000, that was at a similar level of money adjusted for inflation – a little over $50,000 per year, significant chunks of which would be gone in agent fees and taxes before the player ever got a chance to cash those checks.

I don’t want to dwell on the point – this isn’t a history lesson and we all know that the league was built on a foundation of players that were never fairly compensated for what they went through. The more we learn today about the catastrophic effects of head trauma from playing in the NFL the more criminal the neglect of these players seems to be. The NFL has been going since the 1920s, and there are a good 70-years worth of players to whom it owes a huge debt before the players started earning serious money across the board. But instead of making a serious effort to redress that wrong and spend some of the war-chest on the men that built the empire, the NFL would rather hand out a meaningless bonus to Roger Goodell, its Commissioner.

Am I the only really the only person who sees that as a crappy, and grossly unfair, allocation of resources?

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