By most accounts, 2014 was a particularly bad year for professional football.
Star NFL players, including Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, were embroiled in very ugly and very high-profile domestic-abuse scandals. The president was calling the game unsafe while Congress was lobbying to get the league stripped of its status as a nonprofit. Former players were challenging a class-action settlement over the effects of concussions and a public campaign to rename of the league’s most storied teams became a cultural touchpoint.
Nevertheless, according to documents released Tuesday, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, made $34.1 million in compensation in 2014, a year in which editorial boards of large newspapers and advocacy groups were calling for his ouster.
As ESPN reported, here’s how that figure breaks down:
Goodell had a $3.5 million base salary, but he also received a bonus of $26.5 million, a figure that was determined in 2013. In addition, he received $3.7 million in pension and other deferred benefits and $273,000 in “other reportable compensation.”
Goodall’s 2014 haul is slightly less than his 2013 salary ($35 million) and considerably less than his 2012 salary ($44 million), the latter of which included millions in deferred money. In his nine years as commish, Goodell has now raked in just over $180 million.
There are a number of different ways to look at these figures. Goodell’s salaries are much higher than any of the NFL’s highest-paid players. As Bloomberg points out, Goodall’s 2014 salary is higher than that of all but 61 CEOs of public companies.
Over at The New York Times, Ken Belson suggests that relative to the NFL’s revenue, Goodell makes a comparable salary to the heads of pro basketball and baseball. The key difference is that professional football has been the most popular sport in the United States for three decades running. Goodell, though he may be personally very unpopular among fans (and certainly among players), serves as a useful punching bag for a league that is beloved and pulled in $11 billion in revenue in 2014.
Kevin Seifert of NFL Nation makes the point that part of why Goodell is making so much money, especially over the past four years, is because the owners who determine his bonuses are making so much money:
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.
In 2015, the NFL formally became a for-profit organization, which means that Goodell’s salaries going forward will remain private. And while he may be maligned, until pro football’s myriad image problems actually cut into the league’s record revenue, it’s hard to believe the commish or his salaries will truly fall.