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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell paid $44.2 million in 2013

Roger Goodell Commissioner of the NFL waves prior to the start of Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Being commissioner of the richest professional sports league in the history of Mankind is a sweet gig, apparently.

Roger Goodell, head of the National Football League, was paid $44.2 million last year, making him one of the highest-paid executives in the country, especially for a non-profit organization.

In all, the NFL earned about $10 billion in 2013, according to The New York Times, making Goodell’s pay just a small percentage of the league’s total revenue. But his salary most definitely surpasses that of executives at far larger companies and it serves to highlight the non-profit status of the league’s head office (though not its teams).

When the NFL and the AFL – American Football League – agreed to merge in 1966, Congress granted the newly combined league special antitrust exemptions “and confirmed that the league’s office was entitled to the same benefits as business trade groups and chambers of commerce not organized for profit,” the Times reported. Other leagues – including the NHL and the LPGA – have similar exemptions.

However, even a number of large non-profit organizations pay their chief executives far less; Goodell’s pay was first disclosed by Sports Business Journal on Friday.

Still, Goodell has managed the league well through a series of legal issues, such as the class-action lawsuit filed by about 5,000 former players who charge the league failed to disclose the dangers of repeated concussions they received during their years on the field. The league in August agreed to settle for $765 million, though some analysts believe that settlement could have been higher.

Also, roughly two-thirds of the league’s franchises – 23 out of 32 – are worth $1 billion or more, and every one of the teams is profitable, says Forbes magazine.

The NFL’s compensation committee has no issues with paying Goodell as much as he earns.

“As we have previously discussed with all owners, Commissioner Goodell’s compensation reflects our pay-for-performance philosophy and is appropriate given the fact that the N.F.L. under his consistently strong leadership continues to grow and is by far the most successful sports league,” the committee wrote recently in a memo to all team owners.

Added Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a member of the committee: “It’s competitive with what is happening in major American corporations. Given the complexity of his job and reach of it, I think he’s worth it.”

And there is this: Goodell’s pay was higher this year because of a bonus and pension payment of $9.1 million; his salary in 2011 was $35.1 million, or about as much as Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, was paid.