NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it his goal to maximize every possible revenue stream since taking office. Despite the controversial nature of his tenure, he's been successful at every step, raking in billions in multimedia deals to make the NFL a global behemoth.
His efforts have also made him a well-compensated man. Darren Rovell of ESPN reported Goodell made $34.1 million in 2014, according to tax documents made publicly available. Rovell noted Goodell has made $180.5 million in his first nine years as commissioner.
The NFL must make such documents available because of its tax-exempt, nonprofit status in that calendar year. That requirement ended in 2015 when the league voluntarily relinquished its nonprofit status. It will now be up to the discretion of the NFL whether to release Goodell or any other league employee's salary.
"The effects of the tax-exempt status of the league office have been mischaracterized repeatedly in recent years," Goodell wrote to club owners, per Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press (via the Denver Post). "The fact is that the business of the NFL has never been tax exempt. Every dollar of income generated through television rights fees, licensing agreements, sponsorships, ticket sales, and other means is earned by the 32 clubs and is taxable there. This will remain the case."
Major League Baseball and the NBA are also not tax exempt, while the NHL, PGA and LPGA have retained the status.
Goodell's 2014 salary, while gaudy, pales in comparison to the $44.2 million he made in 2013. He is nonetheless believed to be the highest-paid commissioner in sports by a wide margin. He's seen a marked increase in pay since the 2011 lockout, which was widely seen as a win by the league.
"I cannot believe that the commissioner of football gets paid $44 million a year," President Barack Obama said in an interview last year with Bill Simmons, writing for GQ.
Most of Goodell's compensation comes via bonuses, which are tied to a number of factors like league revenue. The NFL is expected to hit $13 billion in total revenue for the 2015 season, again the highest of any sports league. Goodell has played a large part in those increases, negotiating friendly television deals and expanding the game's footprint overseas.
"Commissioner Goodell's compensation reflects the value of his leadership and the success of the NFL at the highest levels," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said last year, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. "His significant accomplishments continue to strengthen our game, our business and our leading position in the sports industry."
Of course, part of Goodell's job is simply to be the face of NFL-related controversy. The 2014 calendar year saw him take on the league's domestic violence problem head on, implementing a more stringent policy amid a widespread public backlash. Andy Glockner of The Cauldron highlighted the role:
Each owner is flipping in $1M a year to have Goodell be a pinata.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) February 16, 2016
It's good value for them.
While Goodell sometimes acted autonomously in cases where he shouldn't—he's had multiple suspensions overturned via independent arbitration—it's clear he's still doing enough to appease owners.
In the end, if Goodell is pleasing his bosses, that $34.1 million figure shouldn't be all that staggering.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.