NFL Commissioner’s Earnings Exceed $34 Million

By Kyle Packnick,
Sports Business Writer

The National Football League released news on Wednesday that commissioner Roger Goodell was paid 34.1 million dollars during the 2014 fiscal year. This was the final year the league office was required to disclose his compensation, after officially becoming a for-profit enterprise in July of 2015. Goodell received $35 million in 2013 and $44 million the year prior (2012).

The variation of the NFL commissioner’s salary is determined by several factors, such as the use of an independent consultant and reviewing the compensation of top executives of other sports and entertainment organizations.

What makes Goodell’s 2014 earnings bothersome is the fact that this significant amount of money was made during one of the most tumultuous seasons in NFL history. The league came under intense scrutiny for its poor handling of multiple major assault cases, including Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson. All three of Goodell’s rulings were eventually overturned or reduced by arbitrators or judges. It was Goodell’s failure of consistency that frustrated so many.

In the case of Ray Rice, Goodell initially issued a two game ban following the reports of domestic abuse. A video was later released by TMZ showing footage of the actual crime that transpired. The gruesome visual resulted in Goodell banning Rice indefinitely. The commissioner denied seeing the same footage previously, despite overwhelming evidence suggesting otherwise. Eventually the basis of the ban was questioned and the case was overturned. The Ray Rice fiasco was a paradigm of Goodell’s lack of control over the NFL.

The new domestic violence policies set forth by the league office, led to a frustrated NFL Players Association. They argued that the education program “treats all players as perpetrators.” Furthermore, the plan “doesn’t build a positive consensus to warning signs… It did not address larger issues of violence in and outside of the home.” The NFL did not offer have any follow-up or continuous resources. In summary, the NFL failed to effectively handle the assault cases themselves or provide meaningful change in the area of domestic abuse.

Goodell’s base salary is $3.5 million. An additional $3.7 million comes in the form of pension and other deferred benefits, along with $273,000 in “other reportable compensation.” The kicker is his bonus, valued at $26.5 million. For most business entities, a bonus is a reward given to employees who demonstrated excellent performance. It’s hard to make that case that the Commissioner was deserving of such compensation, let alone a bonus valued at $26.5 million.

The 32 owners elected not to trim his pay. Goodell’s compensation is determined by a committee that consists of Arthur Blank (Falcons), Robert Kraft (Patriots), and Jerry Richardson (Panthers). They consider that Goodell has excelled at growing the NFL’s revenue. The owners are the ones who pay his dues each year to operate the league.

This creates an apparent conflict of interest. Goodell is supposed to act in the best interest of the owners and the players. But when one side of the spectrum is paying your salary, it’s difficult not to be bias.

In his nine year term as commissioner, Goodell has maintained an average annual earnings of $20 million.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 23rd print edition.

Contact Kyle at


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