In July 2011, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the league had the NFL Players Association on the ropes. Five years of careful planning by Goodell and NFL owners, combined with the unfortunate death of NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw in 2008, had put the players in a tough spot.
The players were going to have to take a cut in pay. They were going to have to hand over part of their share of football revenue to the owners. The question was down to two simple words.
In the end, Goodell was able to shift approximately $4.5 billion over a 10-year period from the players to the owners. Creating a deal that was not only lopsided, but historic in length. It was a shift of nearly 13 percent of all revenue from one side to the other, a cascade of cash.
But Goodell and his men, such as NFL VPs Jeff Pash and Peter Ruocco, weren’t done yet. Not only was there a shift of money, the league put clamps on just about every way that players had to make money in the short-term. Rookie salaries were cut in half for top picks. Salaries for top players (known as the “franchise tag”) were kept almost completely in check, even as revenue for the league grew by 25 percent.
This negotiation wasn’t just a victory for the owners, it was a rout. By 2012, the NFL made the lopsided nature of this victory known to the public when it rewarded Goodell for a job well done. A job thoroughly done. The NFL owners awarded Goodell a bonus that brought his total income to $29.49 million for 2011, nearly three times more than what he had ever made in any prior year. It was staggering.
It was a $29 million tip, as it were.