The latest public report regarding NFL compensation will be the last one, unless the NFL decides to resume tax-exempt status for the league office. Moving forward, no one will know how much Commissioner Roger Goodell or other top executives earn, because the NFL no longer will have a duty to release the information about the money paid to Goodell or others.
The question continues to be whether the NFL should disclose that information voluntarily. Compensation regarding all players is, necessarily, public. Why shouldn’t the public know what the Commissioner, who ostensibly is the Commissioner for the entire sport, is being paid by the narrow constituency for which he works?
Absent transparency that no longer will be legally required (and thus won’t happen), it will become impossible to track the trends in Goodell’s pay, which has dropped from $44 million in fiscal year 2012 to $35 million in fiscal year 2013 to $34.1 million in fiscal year 2014.
The drop for the year that included the Ray Rice debacle wasn’t as steep as many expected. In October 2014, Falcons owner Arthur Blank suggested that Goodell’s compensation could decline due to the Ray Rice debacle. With Patriots owner Robert Kraft serving as a member of the Compensation Committee, that’s another factor that could have worked against Goodell.
For fiscal year 2015 and beyond, there will be no way to know what Goodell or his successor earns, simply because the enemies of the NFL persistently distorted the league office’s tax-exempt status into a vague (and untrue) suggestion that the league was avoiding its tax obligation. Instead, the money was passing through the league office to the teams, and the teams were paying the taxes.
Now, the NFL has sacrificed a tax structure that surely had benefits (otherwise the league wouldn’t have done it) in order to extinguish a lingering P.R. brushfire. The added plus for the league is that the new approach will make Goodell’s pay a secret from this point forward.