It's always cute when NFL fans gag on the salary figures of their favorite commissioner, as if public perception of his job performance has the slightest to do with how his bosses view and pay him. (They viewed him well enough to pay out $34.1 million in 2014, according to the league's tax returns.)
You're absolutely right about Roger Goodell's inconsistent discipline. Your distaste of his Deflategate crusade is understood. And you're certainly justified in wondering why he would compare the risk of sitting on the couch to the risk of head injuries, as he did earlier this month an his annual Super Bowl news conference.
But in this case, you have to put aside what NFL owners clearly see as periphery issues and focus on what has really happened. What we've seen is a CEO paid for delivering significant revenue growth -- or, at least being in charge when it happened -- over a relatively short period of time. It's a continuation of the owners' delight with their 2011 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), an agreement that has helped their revenue soar --- and Goodell's compensation along with it.
Since Goodell shepherded in the CBA, ending an offseason lockout of players, league revenues have grown by about $800 million per year.
CNN Money projected total NFL revenues at $13 billion for 2015. They were at $9 billion around the time of the new CBA. Goodell's compensation has reflected that growth.
In addition, former NFL player Sean Gilbert -- who lost a vote last year to be the executive director of the NFL Players Association -- has calculated that the CBA will short players $10 billion that they would have received under the previous CBA. Instead, according to Gilbert, that money will shift to owners.
From 2006-10, Goodell received $38 million in compensation, including $11.6 million in 2010. After the CBA was approved, giving the league 10 years of relative cost certainty, his salary more than doubled to $29.5 million in 2011. In fact, during the first four years of the CBA, Goodell has received $142 million -- mostly in bonuses.
You might not like it, or agree with it, or be able to so much as conceive of earning $142.7 million to be the commissioner of football. Even President Obama struggles with it, having told GQ Magazine last fall that "I cannot believe that the commissioner of football gets paid $44 million a year," referring to Goodell's 2012 salary.
But Obama understands why -- "They’re making a profit," he said, "and I think that's what the owners are most concerned with" -- and so should you. It's easier to understand than it is to accept, but so it goes with life.
Alas, we won't be able to conduct this fun exercise again. The league office is converting its status from tax-exempt to taxable, and thus will no longer be required to make its tax return public. None of us -- not even the President of the United States -- will have to stress out over it any longer. Money begets money, at least when you're in charge.