The ugly tug of war for control of the NFL

If Roger Goodell were a quarterback in his league, we’d say he’s slow to react to pressure and always making bad reads in coverage

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Where’s Bernie Sanders when you really need him?

The American socialist scold – who’s usually out of his mind about corporate perks and privilege – has been remarkably quiet about the contract negotiations going on for National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell.

According to anonymous source – oh hell, we all know it’s Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones leaking like an old scow – the commissioner is asking for compensation somewhere in the range of US$50 million a year. Plus platinum health care for he and his family – as long as they live.

This is not as big a bump in salary as you might expect. Goodell has been pulling down an estimated $44 million a year under his current deal, including the same platinum health care he wants for the entire Goodell brood for life.

If Goodell were a quarterback in his league, we’d say he’s slow to react to pressure and always making bad reads in coverage.  Under his unsteady hand, the league has swung wildly from punishing players too little to punishing players too much.

The league’s marquee player, Tom Brady, was somehow dragged through the mud over deflated footballs, for Pete’s sake, while domestic assault suspects were given kid-glove treatment for popping women. Until they were given draconian suspensions to compensate for Goodell whiffing on his original punishments.

Now he’s locked in a death struggle with the powerful Jones over the six-game suspension to star Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. The suspension dragged through the courts for months until Elliott finally agreed to the punishment last week.

Jones now promises legal vengeance if Goodell gets his contract demands.

And Goodell has publicly threatened Jones with losing his team if he doesn’t desist.

So much for not washing your dirty linen in private.

Goodell has also been the point man as the league fumbled the concussion crisis, which now threatens the existence of the NFL and all levels of football. Movies, TV programs and books made the NFL out to be a heartless exploiter of young men’s health while the owners bathed in millions. Goodell stammered about inexact science. Not a good look.

Then there’s the issue of teams shuffling. While Goodell sat in the plush chair, three franchises relocated – two to Los Angeles, where the public has been lukewarm over the new neighbours. The Oakland Raiders are now due for Las Vegas – even as they bleed Oakland for more guilt money.

There have been other gaffes but this tepid resumé more than sums up the legacy of Goodell since becoming commissioner in 2006.

Yet for some reason Jones’s fellow NFL owners want him back at a bloated compensation. Nice work if you can get it.

But this shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with corporate America’s tin ear about inequality. As Red Bernie is eager to point out. Just look at a few of the baffling benefit packages accorded to chief executive officers around private-jet world.

Take CEO Marissa Mayer, who drove Yahoo into the ditch. Yahoo lost the ad wars to Google and Facebook and bet billions on new businesses that have failed to take off. Yahoo also had some very conspicuous privacy breaches. For Yahoo’s boss, however, screwing up big time could bring her up to US$137 million in severance as the company tries to get away from its high-profile loser.

Or Jeff Immelt, who ran General Electric for 16 years. GE stock lost 30 per cent of its value during Immelt’s reign of error. GE was the worst performer on the Dow Jones exchange in that period. For this, his severance package is estimated at $219 million.

Then there’s DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who received a more than $391-million cash-out package when his company was sold. At least Katzenberg could claim some successes.

Goodell? Ask the players in his league what they think of his executive run atop the NFL.

So while Goodell is in this well-compensated company, it’s probably not a club any self-respecting capitalist wants to belong to.

Perhaps if ostracized quarterback Colin Kaepernick had employed his well-used knee to protest this kind of sports inequality, he might have just about everyone who’s not an NFL owner on his side.

Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster.


Roger Goodell, Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys, NFL

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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