American Football Database
Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell at Super Bowl 43.jpg
Goodell at Super Bowl XLIII, February 1, 2009
of the National Football League
Assumed office
September 1, 2006
Preceded by Paul Tagliabue
Personal details
Born (1959-02-19) February 19, 1959 (age 63)
Jamestown, New York
Alma mater Washington & Jefferson College

Roger S. Goodell (born February 19, 1959) is the Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), having been chosen to succeed the retiring Paul Tagliabue on August 8, 2006. He was chosen over four finalists for the position, winning a close vote on the fifth ballot before being unanimously approved by acclamation of the owners. He officially began his tenure on September 1, 2006, just prior to the beginning of the 2006 NFL season. Commentators have described him as "the most powerful man in sports".[1][2][3]


Goodell was born in Jamestown, New York,[4] the son of the late United States Senator Charles Ellsworth Goodell, a Republican from New York, and the late Jean (Rice) Goodell of Buffalo, New York. He graduated from Bronxville High School where, as a three-sport star in football, basketball, and baseball, he captained all three teams as a senior and was named the school's athlete of the year.[5] Injuries kept him from playing college football.[6] Goodell is a 1981 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania with a degree in economics.[7][4][8][9]

NFL career

From intern to COO

Goodell's career in the NFL began in 1982 as an administrative intern in the league office in New York under then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle – a position secured through an extensive letter-writing campaign to the league office and each of its then 28 teams.[6] In 1983, he joined the New York Jets as an intern, but returned to the league office in 1984 as an assistant in the public relations department.[10][11][12]

In 1987, Goodell was appointed assistant to the president of the American Football Conference (Lamar Hunt), and under the tutelage of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue filled a variety of football and business operations roles, culminating with his appointment as the NFL's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in December 2001. As the NFL's COO, Goodell took responsibility for the league's football operations and officiating, as well as supervised league business functions. He headed NFL Ventures, which oversees the league's business units, including media properties, marketing and sales, stadium development and strategic planning.[13]

Goodell was heavily involved in the negotiation of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA and NFL owners during the summer of 2011.[14] He also played an extensive role in league expansion, realignment, and stadium development, including the launch of the NFL Network and securing new television agreements.[13]

NFL commissioner selection

Goodell's selection as Commissioner following the retirement of Paul Tagliabue came as no surprise, but it was not a fait accompli. Tagliabue initiated a substantive, wide ranging search for his successor, appointing a committee headed by owner Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Goodell was one of five finalists, joining Gregg Levy, Frederick Nance, Robert Reynolds, and Mayo Shattuck III. With 22 votes from the owners being needed to make a choice, Goodell, who oddsmakers had installed as a prohibitive 2:5 favorite to be selected, only garnered 15 votes to Levy's 13, with three votes scattered among the other candidates and the Oakland Raiders abstaining.

On the second and third ballots, Goodell and Levy were the only candidates to receive votes (Goodell 17, Levy 14). Goodell increased his lead to 21–10 after the fourth ballot, falling one vote shy of election, but on the fifth round of voting two owners swung their votes to him to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority (Goodell 23, Levy 8).[12] The Oakland Raiders abstained from the voting in each round.

Goodell was chosen on August 8, 2006, to succeed Paul Tagliabue and assumed office on September 1—the date Tagliabue set to leave office.[15]

Actions as commissioner

Goodell sees his main duty as commissioner as "protecting the shield"--as he puts it (a reference to the NFL's shield logo), protecting the integrity of the game and making it safer.[16] However, some of his actions to "protect the shield" have been met with some criticism.

Player conduct

In April 2007, following a year of significant scandal surrounding some NFL players' actions off-the-field, Goodell announced a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy. Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry were the first two players to be suspended under the new policy,[17] and Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson was suspended months later due to his conduct involving weapon ownership and drunk driving. On August 31, 2007, Goodell suspended Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson for five games and fined him US$100,000, and suspended New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison four games without pay, after they admitted the use of banned substances for medical purposes and to accelerate healing, respectively. The league indicated to Wilson that his more severe penalty was because they held "people in authority in higher regard than people on the field."[18] Goodell has also imposed suspensions on the following players for conduct:

Date(s) suspended Suspension length Name Position Team at the time of suspension
April 10, 2007 Entire 2007 season Adam "Pacman" Jones[17] Cornerback Tennessee Titans
First 8 games of 2007 season Chris Henry[17] Wide receiver Cincinnati Bengals
June 4, 2007 First 8 games of 2007 season Terry "Tank" Johnson[19] Defensive tackle Chicago Bears
August 24, 2007 – July 27, 2009 Suspended for the first two regular season games in the 2009 season and could play by week three of the season. He can play the final two pre-season games. Michael Vick[20] Quarterback Atlanta Falcons
October 14, 2008 Indefinite
(ultimately was the minimum of 4 games)
Adam "Pacman" Jones[21] Cornerback Dallas Cowboys
August 13, 2009 Entire 2009 Season Donte Stallworth Wide Receiver Cleveland Browns
April 21, 2010 First 6 games of 2010 season (later changed to 4 games due to continuous following of the NFL personal conduct guidelines) Ben Roethlisberger Quarterback Pittsburgh Steelers
November 29 – December 11, 2011 Weeks 13 and 14 of 2011 season Ndamukong Suh[22] Defensive tackle Detroit Lions

In addition to suspensions, Goodell has also fined players for on-field misconduct. For example, on October 19, 2010, the NFL handed out fines to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather after they were involved in controversial hits the previous Sunday. Goodell released a memo to every team in the league stating that "It is clear to me that further action is required to emphasize the importance of teaching safe and controlled techniques, and of playing within the rules."[23] The NFL's reaction to the hits was itself controversial and Goodell came under criticism from players like Troy Polamalu, who felt he had assumed too much control and power over punishment towards players and was making wrong decisions.[24]


On September 13, 2007, Goodell disciplined the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick after New England attempted to videotape the defensive signals of the New York Jets on September 9. Belichick was fined the league maximum of $500,000 and the team itself was fined US$250,000 and the loss of their first round 2008 draft pick. Goodell came down hard on the Patriots because he felt Belichick's authority over football operations (Belichick is effectively the Patriots' general manager as well as head coach) was such that his decisions were "properly attributed" to the Patriots as well.[25] Goodell said he considered suspending Belichick, but decided against it because he felt fining them and stripping them of a draft pick were "more effective" than a suspension.[26]

2011 NFL lockout

Outside of player conduct, Goodell is also known for his work in the 2011 NFL lockout. Prior to the start of the 2011 NFL season, Goodell worked with NFL owners and the NFLPA on settling the NFL lockout which ran from March 11 to August 5.[27] During the lockout, at the request of some NFL teams, he held conference calls with season ticket holders where he discussed the collective bargaining agreement and conducted question-and-answer sessions on various NFL topics.[28]


In March of 2012, Goodell revealed evidence that players and coaches on the New Orleans Saints had instituted a bounty program in which Saints defensive players were paid bonuses for deliberately knocking opposing players out of games. Then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered the program, and as many as 27 Saints defensive players were involved. Later that month, Goodell handed down some of the harshest penalties in NFL history. He suspended Williams, who had left to become defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, indefinitely; Williams will not be able to apply for reinstatement until at least the end of the 2012 season. Goodell also suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six games. Additionally, the Saints themselves were fined a league maximum $500,000 and stripped of their second round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.[29] Goodell was particularly angered that those involved in the program lied about it during two separate league investigations of the program. Sanctions for players were not handed down at the time, and Goodell stated he would refrain for penalizing players until the NFLPA completed its investigation of the affair.[30]

2012 referee lockout

By June 2012, the league and the NFL Referees Association had not yet come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, thus failing to resolve a labor dispute. Accordingly, the NFL has locked out the regular NFL game officials, and thus have opened the 2012 season with replacement referees.[31][32]

These replacement officials consist of low-level college and high school officials. None are current Division I college referees since the league wants to protect them from union backlash and to let them continue working their scheduled games during the concurrent college football season.[33] In addition, many of the top Division I conferences are barring their officials from becoming replacements anyway because they employ current and former NFL referees as officiating supervisors.[34][35]

Despite Goodell stating during the preseason that he believed that the replacement officials will "do a credible job",[36] the inexperience of the replacement referees has generated criticism by writers and players. Referencing Goodell's aforementioned other actions as commissioner, the NFLPA issued a letter after Week 2 to the owners to end the dispute, saying:

It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of "safety." Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed. As players, we see this game as more than the "product" you reference at times. You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately.[37]

Personal life

Goodell is married to former Fox News Channel anchor Jane Skinner[38] and they have twin daughters. He has four brothers; among them are Tim, who works for the Hess Corporation; and Michael, long-time partner of Jack Kenny, creator of the short-lived NBC series The Book of Daniel. The Webster family on the show was loosely based on the Goodell family.[39]


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  6. 6.0 6.1 "Roger Goodell Biography". TV Guide's Celebrity Bios. TV Guide. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
  7. "Goodell, Roger". Education for a Lifetime. Washington & Jefferson College. Archived from the original on 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
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  13. 13.0 13.1 "New Commissioner Joined NFL in 1982". ESPN. August 9, 2006. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
  14. Davis, Nate (August 5, 2011). "Goodell, Smith Sign CBA at Hall of Fame". USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
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  16. "Goodell doesn't mention Roethlisberger". Associated Press. 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
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  22. "League upholds Suh's Suspension". Fox Sports. December 2, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
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  29. USA Today. March 21, 2012.
  31. Farmer, Sam (July 18, 2012). "NFL officials: Quality of games could suffer with replacement officials". Los Angeles Times.,0,4619781.story. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  32. "NFL to use replacement refs". ESPN. August 29, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  33. Murphy, Brian (August 4, 2012). "Minnesota Vikings, NFL turning to replacement officials, for better or worse". Pioneer Press. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  34. King, Peter (July 30, 2012). "A League At The Crossroads". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved August 13, 2012. "NFL refs now serve as supervisors of officials for five major conferences—the Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and Conference USA—and they won't allow officials from those conferences to work NFL games. The source said that, in solidarity with the NFL zebras, supervisors in other FBS conferences won't allow their officials to work NFL games either"
  35. Borden, Same (August 27, 2012). "With Referees Out, N.F.L. Stars Throw Flag on Novice Fill-Ins". The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  36. "Replacement referees: NFL players fear negative effects, Sporting News poll finds". Sporting News. August 24, 2012. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  37. "NFLPA accuses owners of “greed” for locking out referees". ProFootballTalk. September 23, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
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