Roger Goodell officially became the commissioner of the NFL on September 1, 2006 and has been described as “the most powerful man in sports”.
Goodell was born in Jamestown, New York and is the son of US Senator Charles Goodell. He was an outstanding athlete in high school, captaining the football, basketball, and baseball teams in his senior year.
Although he didn’t go the college sports route, he would start his career early in the sports industry. After graduating from Washington & Jefferson College in 1981, he started his career as an administrative intern with the NFL in the league office in New York in 1982. In 1983, he interned at the New York Jets for a short period of time before eventually returning to the NFL league office in 1984 as a public relations assistant.
Most come-up stories in sports involve an athlete training his ass off and excelling in his sport in high school and college to enter a league of stubborn old guard, only to become an underdog hero. The same could be said of Roger Goodell on the business end of things. Granted, his father was a Senator, but Roger’s extended period of time interning is nothing shy of an underdog story.
Goodell would hone his football and business operations roles under the help of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, as assistant to the president of the American Football Conference. In 2001 Goodell was appointed as the NFL’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
In this position, Goodell had the responsibility of the NFL’s football operations, officiating, and supervising business functions. He played a large role in expanding the league, stadium development, and the launch of the NFL Network.
When Tagliabue retired, Goodell was in a close election against Gregg Levy but eventually won out.
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) July 23, 2016
A couple of Roger Goodell’s more publicized acts as commissioner include:
In 2007, New England tried to video the defensive signals of the New York Jets from an illegal position to be able to read their plays better. Goodell gave it to the Patriots and Belichick really good, fining Belichick the league maximum $500,000, and the team $250,000 and the loss of their first-round 2008 draft pick.
Players and coaches on the New Orleans Saints started a bounty program that would pay bonuses to Saints defensive players. There were at most 27 Saints defensive players involved. Goodell indefinitely suspended defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who had left to become a defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season, General Manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. The Saints were fined a league maximum of $500,000 and lost their 2012 and 2013 second-round draft picks.
Player Brain Damage
In August of 2013, the NFL paid a $765 million settlement with former NFL players over head injuries. Of that amount, $675 million is to be used as compensation for former NFL players, $75 million for exams, and $10 million for research and education.
In more recent history, the New England Patriots made another appearance under NFL scrutiny. The scandal centered around Patriots team employees deflating footballs. Tom Brady was suspended four games for his supposed knowledge of the actions. Goodell presided over Brady’s hearing, and upheld the suspension using Brady’s cell phone destruction as evidence.
Being on the business side of football, especially to the extent of the NFL commissioner, can be comparable to the gruelling intensity of actually being on the field. With hundreds, if not thousands, of possible head-injury cases surfacing from the League’s 96 years, Goodell surely has his work cut out for him.