Roger Goodell has been under the microscope ever since he made the transition from anonymous NFL employee to Godfather of the most powerful, profitable league in the country. And, precisely because he has thrust himself into the spotlight with his one-man crusade to change football, everything about his reign as Commish has been met with scrutiny. From his almost unlimited power to his hypocritical calls for an 18-game season to his heavy-handed discipline of players, Goodell has quickly become one of the most powerful men in sports. With that power, another figure surrounding Goodell's tenure as Commish has come into question, his salary.
Much news was made when Goodell offered and then made good on his pledge to reduce his salary to $1 during the NFL Lockout. However, the pure PR gesture rung hollow when remembering Goodell was raking in almost $10 million the previous year. Now, after the NFL's tax documents have been made public, Goodell's salary is again getting a fresh look. Perhaps not surprisingly, Goodell has seen a pay raise off last year's salary from $9.89 million to roughly $11.5 million. That's quite a fair amount of cheese as our friend Clark Kellogg would undoubtedly say.
But, would you find it surprising that Goodell, the proverbial White Knight saving the barbaric sport of football as we know it, isn't the highest paid man working for the NFL? For all of the autonomy and power Goodell has consolidated in his short tenure, there is actually one man who rakes in more cash than Goodell, at $12.2 million to be exact. That man is NFL Network CEO and Executive Vice-President of Media Steve Bornstein.
Steve Bornstein? Not exactly a household name among many NFL fans. However, Bornstein is a critical figure in the NFL's power structure...
The former President of ESPN has been in charge of the NFL Network since 2003. And even though he doesn't have the absolute power of Goodell, Bornstein is a crucial figure in the NFL's hierarchy. As head of media, Bornstein is not only in charge of the league-owned network, but he also is responsible for the network's massive TV contracts. In fact, one of the most fascinating anecdotes from the "Those Guys Have All The Fun" is Bornstein raking his former company over the coals to the tune of a $1 billion contract for Monday Night Football. Throughout the ESPN Book, Bornstein emerged as one of the most critical figures in the rise of ESPN to a global powerhouse as President during the 90's.
With his astronomical salary, much like Goodell, Bornstein's performance in his current position should be evaluated with scrutiny. Undoubtedly, the success of the NFL Network so far has been a mixed bag at best. For years, the network struggled to put on anywhere close to a professional broadcast of their own product. Heck, it was only this season that Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock provided something other than a laughing stock in the NFL Network broadcast booth. Also consider that the NFL Network still doesn't have a deal with Time Warner Cable, one of the largest providers around the country (eight years and counting with no NFL Network thank you very much). There was also a revealing article in the Philadelphia papers last summer charting the slow death of NFL Films, thanks in large part to NFL Network executives like Steve Bornstein.
The company line when questions have been raised concerning Bornstein's salary has been that it's the going rate for network executives. And of course, Bornstein has hit the ball out of the park with the TV deals he's been able to negotiate to keep the league in a position where they can basically print their own money. It's also easy to argue that NFL Network still remains light years ahead of other league-owned channels as the true trailblazer of the medium. But too often the network has been in the news for missteps it has made, not for its successes. Case in point, the potential lawsuit Jeremy Shockey may file against Warren Sapp and the NFL for comments made on NFL Network, which is still a huge embarrassment for the network and the league.
It's no secret - money equals power. And nobody at the NFL has more power than Roger Goodell and Steve Bornstein. Goodell's power continues to grow in the public eye on a daily basis while Bornstein works largely in anonymity. Roger Goodell has begun to feel the slings and arrows of criticism as his power has grown... will the same be true for Steve Bornstein if NFL Network continues to be in the headlines along with the athletes it covers?