The world’s most expensive whipping boy

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has promised fans the league is looking into ways to trim fat from broadcasts next year, acknowledging that it’s absurd to cut to a commercial break, watch the kicker blast the ball out of the end zone for a touchback, and then cut to another commercial break. The problem is the NFL is one giant commercial break, and despite the Commissioner’s doublespeak, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that the owners got together and said, “Hey guys, we’re making so much money here, why don’t we get rid of some of these commercial breaks – ya know, for the fans.” 

Sure, there may be fewer commercial breaks next year, but they’ll be longer. Despite the pride and purpose that NFL teams instill in their fans, the organization exists for one reason: to make money. Lots of it. The NFL is the world’s most profitable sports league. It generated about $13 billion in revenue in 2016 – a number Goodell wants to get to $25 billion by 2027. With Goodell as the public face of the NFL, its cabal of billionaire owners are free to plot, scheme, and conspire to maximize profits without worrying about the consequences. Any vitriol or backlash is directed squarely at Goodell, the world’s most expensive whipping boy.

As long as he can obfuscate responsibility for the shameless commercialization of the NFL away from the owners, he’ll continue to wear that crown. Current numbers are hard to come by because the league recently gave up its “not for profit” designation so they would no longer be compelled to release executives’ (specifically Goodell’s) salaries, but he pocketed more than $150 million in total compensation during his first 8 years as commissioner (2007-14).

He made a cool $44 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year and $34 million in 2014-15. That’s the last year that data is available. Fans, alarmed at just how much money Goodell was making, created an environment where it made sense for the league to give up the $10 million or so it was saving as a “not for profit” organization to avoid disclosing his salary. Think about that – they’re making so much money that they volunteered to pay an extra $10 million in tax, annually, in perpetuity, so they wouldn’t have to tell people how much money Roger Goodell makes.

While he is the face of the NFL, he is not the puppet master. It’s the owners pulling the strings, which, ironically, control the marionette that is Roger Goodell.

NFL teams dominate the list of the world’s most valuable sports franchises, where does your team rank?