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Roger Goodell

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Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell
Goodell at Super Bowl XLIII, February 1, 2009
Commissioner
of the National Football League
Assumed office
September 1, 2006
Preceded by Paul Tagliabue
Personal details
Born Roger Stokoe Goodell
(1959-02-19) February 19, 1959
Jamestown, New York
Alma mater Washington & Jefferson College (B.S. in Economics, 1981)

Roger Stokoe Goodell (; born February 19, 1959) is the Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), having been chosen to succeed the retiring Paul Tagliabue on August 8, 2006.[1] 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. Commentators have described him as "the most powerful man in sports".[2][3][4]

Background

Roger Stokoe Goodell was born in Jamestown, New York,[5] the son of United States Senator Charles Ellsworth Goodell of New York, and Jean (Rice) Goodell of Buffalo, New York. He graduated from Bronxville High School where, as a three-sport star in football, basketball, and baseball, he captained all three teams as a senior and was named the school's athlete of the year.[6] Injuries kept him from playing college football.[7] Goodell is a 1981 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania with a degree in economics.[5][8][9][10]

NFL career

From intern to COO

Goodell's career in the NFL began in 1982 as an administrative intern in the league office in New York under then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle – a position secured through a letter-writing campaign to the league office and each of its then 28 teams.[11][12] In 1983, he joined the New York Jets as an intern, but returned to the league office in 1984 as an assistant in the public relations department.[13][14][15]

In 1987, Goodell was appointed assistant to the president of the American Football Conference, Lamar Hunt, and under the tutelage of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue filled a variety of football and business operations roles, culminating with his appointment as the NFL's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in December 2001. As the NFL's COO, Goodell took responsibility for the league's football operations and officiating, as well as supervised league business functions. He headed NFL Ventures, which oversees the league's business units, including media properties, marketing and sales, stadium development and strategic planning.[16]

Goodell was heavily involved in the negotiation of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA and NFL owners during the summer of 2011.[17] He also played an extensive role in league expansion, realignment, and stadium development, including the launch of the NFL Network and securing new television agreements.[16]

NFL commissioner selection

Upon Tagliabue's retirement Goodell was one of the candidates in contention for the role. In the second and third ballots, Goodell and Gregg Levy were the only candidates to receive votes (Goodell 17, Levy 14). Goodell increased his lead to 21–10 after the fourth ballot, falling one vote shy of election, but on the fifth round of voting two owners swung their votes to him to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority (Goodell 23, Levy 8).[15] The Oakland Raiders abstained from the voting in each round.

Goodell was chosen on August 8, 2006 to succeed Tagliabue and assumed office on September 1, the date Tagliabue had set to step down.[18]

Actions as commissioner

Goodell believes his primary responsibity as commissioner is protecting the integrity of the game and making it safer—"protecting the shield", as he puts it (a reference to the NFL's shield logo).[19] However, some of his actions in this regard have been met with criticism.[20]

Player conduct

In April 2007, following a year of significant scandal surrounding some NFL players' actions off the field, Goodell announced a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy. Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry were the first two players to be suspended under the new policy,[21] and Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson was suspended months later because of his conduct involving weapon ownership and drunk driving. On August 31, 2007, Goodell suspended Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson for five games and fined him US$100,000, and suspended New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison for four games without pay, after they admitted the use of banned substances for medical purposes and to accelerate healing, respectively. The league indicated to Wilson that his more severe penalty was because they held "people in authority in higher regard than people on the field."[22] Goodell has also imposed suspensions on the following players for conduct:

Date(s) suspended Suspension length Name Position Team at the time of suspension
April 10, 2007 Entire 2007 season Adam "Pacman" Jones[21] Cornerback Tennessee Titans
First 8 games of 2007 season Chris Henry[21] Wide receiver Cincinnati Bengals
June 4, 2007 First 8 games of 2007 season Terry "Tank" Johnson[23] Defensive tackle Chicago Bears
August 24, 2007 – July 27, 2009 Suspended for the first two regular season games in the 2009 season and could play by week three of the season. He can play the final two pre-season games. Michael Vick[24] Quarterback Atlanta Falcons
October 14, 2008 Indefinite
(ultimately was the minimum of 4 games)
Adam "Pacman" Jones[25] Cornerback Dallas Cowboys
August 13, 2009 Entire 2009 Season Donte Stallworth Wide Receiver Cleveland Browns
April 21, 2010 First 6 games of 2010 season (later changed to 4 games due to continuous following of the NFL personal conduct guidelines) Ben Roethlisberger Quarterback Pittsburgh Steelers
November 29 – December 11, 2011 Weeks 13 and 14 of 2011 season Ndamukong Suh[26] Defensive tackle Detroit Lions
September 7, 2014 – November 2014 First two weeks of 2014 season plus ten additional weeks (originally two games, then changed to Indefinite following release of the video of the assault which was vacated after 12 weeks)[27] Ray Rice Running back Baltimore Ravens

In addition to suspensions, Goodell has also fined players for on-field misconduct. For example, on October 19, 2010, the NFL handed out fines to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather after they were involved in controversial hits the previous Sunday. Goodell released a memo to every team in the league stating that "It is clear to me that further action is required to emphasize the importance of teaching safe and controlled techniques, and of playing within the rules."[28] The NFL's reaction to the hits was itself controversial and Goodell came under criticism from players like Troy Polamalu, who felt he had assumed too much control and power over punishment towards players and was making wrong decisions.[29]

Two national political advocacy groups, UltraViolet have submitted a petition with over 100,000 signatures calling on Goodell and the NFL to "address its domestic violence problem." This came after Ray Rice was suspended for two games when he was accused of assaulting his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, who is now his wife.[30]

Spygate

On September 13, 2007, Goodell disciplined the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick after New England attempted to videotape the defensive signals of the New York Jets on September 9. Belichick was fined the league maximum of $500,000 and the team itself was fined US$250,000 and the loss of their first round 2008 draft pick. Goodell came down hard on the Patriots because he felt Belichick's authority over football operations (Belichick is effectively the Patriots' general manager as well as head coach) was such that his decisions were "properly attributed" to the Patriots as well.[31] Goodell said he considered suspending Belichick, but decided against it because he felt fining them and stripping them of a draft pick were "more effective" than a suspension.[32]

2011 NFL lockout

Outside of player conduct, Goodell is also known for his work in the 2011 NFL lockout. Prior to the start of the 2011 NFL season, Goodell worked with NFL owners and the NFLPA on settling the NFL lockout which ran from March 11 to August 5.[33] During the lockout, at the request of some NFL teams, he held conference calls with season ticket holders where he discussed the collective bargaining agreement and conducted question-and-answer sessions on various NFL topics.[34]

Bountygate

In March 2012, Goodell revealed evidence that players and coaches on the New Orleans Saints had instituted a bounty program in which Saints defensive players were paid bonuses for deliberately knocking opposing players out of games. Then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered the program, and as many as 27 Saints defensive players were involved. Later that month, Goodell handed down some of the harshest penalties in NFL history. He suspended Williams, who had left to become defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, indefinitely; Williams will not be able to apply for reinstatement until at least the end of the 2012 season. Goodell also suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. Additionally, the Saints themselves were fined a league maximum $500,000 and stripped of their second round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.[35] Goodell was particularly angered that those involved in the program lied about it during two separate league investigations of the program. Sanctions for players were not handed down at the time, and Goodell stated he would refrain from penalizing players until the NFLPA completed its investigation of the affair.[36]

2012 referee lockout

By June 2012, the league and the NFL Referees Association had not yet come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, thus failing to resolve a labor dispute. Accordingly, the NFL locked out the regular NFL game officials, and opened the 2012 season with replacement referees.[37][38]

The replacement officials consisted of low-level college and high school officials. None were Division I college referees at the time since the league wanted to protect them from union backlash and let them continue working their scheduled games during the concurrent college football season.[39] In addition, many of the top Division I conferences barred their officials from becoming replacements anyway because they employed current and former NFL referees as officiating supervisors.[40][41]

Despite Goodell stating during the preseason that he believed that the replacement officials will "do a credible job",[42] the inexperience of the replacement referees generated criticism by writers and players. Referencing Goodell's aforementioned other actions as commissioner, the NFLPA issued a letter after Week 2 to the owners to end the dispute, saying:

It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of "safety." Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed. As players, we see this game as more than the "product" you reference at times. You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately.[43]

Player brain damage

Under Goodell's leadership, on August 30, 2013, the NFL reached a $765 million settlement with the former NFL players over head injuries.[44] The settlement created a $675 million compensation fund from which former NFL players can collect from depending on the extent of their conditions. Severe conditions such as Lou Gehrig's disease and postmortem diagnosed chronic traumatic encephalopathy would be entitled to payouts as high as $5 million.[44] From the remainder of the settlement, $75 million would be used for medical exams, and $10 million would be used for research and education.[44] However, in January, 2014, U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody refused to accept the agreed settlement because "the money wouldn't adequately compensate the nearly 20,000 men not named in the suit".[45] In 2014 the cap was removed from the amount.[46]

Ray Rice domestic violence incident

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée Janay Palmer were arrested in February 2014 over an alleged fight at a casino in Atlantic City. Rice was indicted for third-degree assault in March.[47]

In late July, Goodell announced that Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season and would be fined an additional game's pay.[48] Goodell was heavily criticized by media figures and domestic violence activists for not casting a heavier punishment on Rice.[49][50][51][52] Keith Olbermann called on Goodell to resign.[53]

Goodell acknowledged in a memo sent across the NFL in late August that he "didn't get it right" regarding Rice's punishment. He announced new, stricter suspension guidelines for cases of domestic violence; first-time offenders would be suspended for six games, and second-time offenders for at least a year.[54]

On September 8, 2014, TMZ released footage from the elevator that showed Rice striking Palmer in the face and Palmer falling to the floor unconscious. The release of the graphic video led to renewed criticism of Goodell's initial suspension of Rice.[55][56][57] Later that day, Goodell announced he was suspending Rice from the NFL indefinitely. The Ravens also announced that they had released Rice.[58]

A number of feminists and journalists speculated that Goodell attempted to cover up whether the NFL had access to the damning video; many of them called for his resignation as commissioner,[59][60][61][62][63][64] as did O'Neill of the National Organization for Women[65] and U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp.[66] New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft defended Goodell and asserted that the commissioner had not been aware of the video before September 8.[67] Goodell claimed in a CBS News interview on September 9 that nobody in the NFL had access to the video.[68] The next day, a report surfaced by the Associated Press that a copy of the tape was sent to a league executive earlier that year, in April.[69]

Personal life

Goodell is married to former Fox News Channel anchor Jane Skinner[70] and they have twin daughters. He has four brothers; among them are Tim, who works for the Hess Corporation; and Michael, married to Jack Kenny, creator of the short-lived NBC series The Book of Daniel. The Webster family on the show was loosely based on the Goodell family.[71]

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