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Understanding Goodell's pay is difficult for some

by J.W. Miller on 02/18/13

     I have a great friend whom I will call Elmo who is relatively normal in most of his thought processes. However, all the wisdom and tolerance he displays on such knotty topics as politics, religion and geothermal warming go down the rat-hole when the subject is the Saints. A case in point was his reaction to the news that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made $29.5 million in 2011. "How in tunket," Elmo screamed, between sips of his Makers and water, "could the man who intentionally ruined the Saints season be rewarded for it?" Sit down, big boy, I told him, and I will try and 'splain it to you.

     First, Goodell's big compensation year came before Bountygate, and, secondly, he earned it. Now, don't go flying off the handle again, Elmo! Calm yourself, and sip slowly, and I will tell you what I told Fox 8 TV when they asked me to comment on Goodell's contract. Fox 8 is owned by Saints owner Tom Benson, and it is probably good for them to rouse the troops with an off-season event, so long as it comes under the heading of "legitimate news." How much Goodell makes is probably "legitimate news," at least in the Kardashian definition of news. But there are no secrets worth keeping anymore, so everybody is reporting it.

     I simply told Fox 8 that success has its rewards, and Goodell had a good-ell year in 2011. It is not every year a commissioner achieves two major accomplishments. First, he assured labor peace with a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, which meant uninterrupted football for the foreseeable future. He followed that up by securing a new national television package which assures the league and its players continued financial success. The latter point is pertinent, because it means the industry can pay its highest-paid employees as much or more than the CEO, which is not the case in most businesses.

     Goodell's $29.5 million topped all players for 2011, but without the performance bonuses, he probably slid back to the $12 million or so range of his base salary in 2012. That is not exactly slave wages, but neither would it put him at the same level as the top performers in his industry. Did Drew Brees earn his $20 million annual salary in 2012? All right, Elmo, you don't have to answer that. After all, this is the entertainment business, where the stars make more than the producers, directors or even owners of the studio, so I won't go there!

     But the NFL is big business, and Goodell's 2011 paycheck is commensurate with CEO's at the Top 100 companies, as printed recently in Forbes Magazine. His total compensation would rank him about 30th on the list, ahead of chief executive officers at such companies as Target, AT&T, Kraft Foods and even Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. All this knowledge does not satisfy Elmo, who still thinks Goodell should be hung in Effigy, which is a little community east of Houma. But ask yourself what price is labor peace in an industry that can command $4 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial?

     That is why Roger Goodell made $29.5 million in 2011, and that was even before he took actions in 2012 to protect the integrity of the game. But I am certain Elmo does not want to hear about that part of the commissioner's responsibility. He has already chugged his glass and left the building.

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