Thursday, January 26, 2012

Roger Goodell – the man for the NFL

The National Football League announced NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has signed a contract extension through the 2018 season. The announcement was made by Atlanta Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank, who serves as chairman of the NFL Compensation Committee.

NFL clubs unanimously approved a resolution at a December 14 league meeting in Dallas that said, “The commissioner has performed his duties in an exemplary fashion since his election in 2006 and the membership has determined that the interests of the NFL would be best served by a continuation of the commissioner’s employment beyond the terms of his current employment contract.”

The resolution authorized the Compensation Committee to complete negotiations on a new contract, the third of Goodell’s tenure as commissioner. His original five-year contract was extended in 2009. The new contract continues until March 31, 2019.

Other members of the Compensation Committee are Tom Benson (New Orleans), Pat Bowlen (Denver), Robert Kraft (New England), Jerry Richardson (Carolina), and Steve Ross (Miami).

“I speak on behalf of 32 NFL club owners in saying we are fortunate to have Roger Goodell as our commissioner,” Blank said. “Since becoming commissioner in 2006, the NFL – already the leader in professional sports – has gotten even stronger. As evidenced by this contract extension, we have great confidence in Roger’s vision and leadership of the NFL. Our clubs, players and fans could not ask for a better CEO.”

On September 26, 2007 Business Week called Goodell the most powerful man in sports. He was chosen over four finalists for the position, winning a close vote on the fifth ballot before being unanimously approved by acclamation of the owners. He officially began his tenure on September 1, 2006, just prior to the beginning of the 2006 NFL season. Goodell is the eighth chief executive in the NFL’s 91-year history.

As the NFL continues to grow in popularity, Commissioner Goodell has focused his priorities on strengthening the game and all 32 NFL franchises through innovation and communication.

He has addressed a wide range of issues, including player health and safety, the medical needs of retired players, personal conduct, revenue sharing, stadium construction, media innovation, and international development.

In addition to securing a landmark 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association, the longest in the history of professional sports, Commissioner Goodell created the first NFL Player Advisory Council, strengthened the league’s anti-steroids policy, launched innovative new television contracts and a new series of international regular-season games, and improved the NFL’s news media access policies to better serve fan interest.

Along with the collective bargaining agreement, one of Goodell’s landmark legacies will be the NFL Conduct Code. On April 10, 2007 Goodell announced the National Football League would implement a code of conduct for its players (in 2010 the code of conduct was extended to all NFL employees).

"It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches, and staff," Commissioner Goodell said at the time. "We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League. We have long had policies and programs designed to encourage responsible behavior, and this policy is a further step in ensuring that everyone who is part of the NFL meets that standard. We will continue to review the policy and modify it as warranted."

“We must protect the integrity of the NFL," Commissioner Goodell said in the April 2007 release. "The highest standards of conduct must be met by everyone in the NFL because it is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right. These players, and all members of our league, have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis."

In a letter to each player, Commissioner Goodell wrote: "Your conduct has brought embarrassment and ridicule upon yourself, your club, and the NFL, and has damaged the reputation of players throughout the league. You have put in jeopardy an otherwise promising NFL career, and have risked both your own safety and the safety of others through your off-field actions. In each of these respects, you have engaged in conduct detrimental to the NFL and failed to live up to the standards expected of NFL players. Taken as a whole, this conduct warrants significant sanction."

The first players to feel the teeth of the new policy were Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, college teammates at West Virginia whose first two years in the NFL were marred by arrests. Henry died a tragic death on December 17, 2009 succumbing to injuries suffered from a car accident.

The third player suspended was Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson. On August 24, 2007, Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback Michael Vick filed a plea agreement and pleaded guilty in his involvement in illegal dog fighting and euthanization, and was suspended indefinitely without pay; his reinstatement occurred in time for him to play in the 2009-2010 season.

Prior to being named commissioner, Goodell managed an array of football and business operations during a 24-year career in the NFL.

Goodell, 52, joined the NFL in 1982 as an administrative intern in the league office in New York. After spending the 1983 season as an intern with the New York Jets, Goodell returned to the league office in 1984 as an assistant in the public relations department. In 1987, he was appointed assistant to the president of the American Football Conference, Lamar Hunt, by then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

“It is a privilege for me to serve the NFL,” Goodell said. “It is the only place I have ever wanted to work. I am grateful for the contributions and counsel of NFL owners in managing our league, the talented staff that supports us, and the players and coaches that perform their magic on the field. It is truly a team effort. I am eagerly looking ahead to the challenge of building on our momentum and doing all we can to improve our game for the fans and everyone that is part of our league.”

In addition to nurturing the NFL to new heights of fan popularity, Goodell has led the way in creating new playing rules, policies, and programs to make the game better and safer. This includes $100 million committed to medical research during the 10-year term of the new CBA. Goodell’s leadership on health and safety has had a significant positive impact on all levels of football and other sports.

Under Paul Tagliabue, Goodell served in various senior executive roles and was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2001.

As chief operating officer, Goodell was responsible for the league’s football operations and officiating departments in addition to supervising all league business functions.

Goodell was instrumental in many league accomplishments prior to becoming commissioner, including expansion, realignment, and stadium development. He directed the dramatic transformation and growth of the NFL’s business units, played a lead role in the launch of the NFL Network, and was a key member of the negotiating team that produced the NFL’s television agreements.

In football operations, he helped lead the 1994 initiative for rules changes to improve offensive production, initiated the creation of a senior football operations position in the league office, oversaw the administration of the instant replay system, and restructured the officiating department.

One of the more interesting activities Goodell conducts as commissioner are the series of events he holds with NFL fans when he travels to NFL games in different cities. His counterparts in the NBA (David Stern), MLB (Bud Selig) and NHL (Gary Bettman) rarely hold ‘town hall’ meetings allowing fans of their sport to have direct access to the person entrusted with management of their sports league.

Throughout the negotiations with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, Goodell acted in what he believed were the best interests of the NFL owners he represented. Both Goodell and Smith were professional and never ‘threatened’ each other with tough talk, unlike David Stern, Billy Hunter and their NBA labor talks.

The NFL Conduct Code, the CBA, the billion dollar TV agreements, the NFL is the sports industries gold standard. In large part the NFL is one of the best businesses in the world today and that is in large part because of the leadership Roger Goodell has brought to the National Football League.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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