Born in New York in 1959, Roger Goodell joined the National Football League as an intern in 1982. Following a steady rise through the league's hierarchy, he was voted NFL commissioner in 2006. Since taking over the job, Goodell has successfully negotiated deals with the players' union and the league's broadcasting partners, but has drawn criticism for refusing to acknowledge health issues with former players and his hard-line approach to handing down suspensions.
Roger Stokoe Goodell was born on February 19, 1959, in Jamestown, New York, the third of five sons of Charles and Jean Goodell. A lawyer and politician, Charles Goodell took over the Senate seat of the assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, though his opposition to the Vietnam War angered Republican Party leaders and effectively ended his political career.
Following the family's move to the New York City suburb of Bronxville, Roger Goodell became captain of his high school’s football, baseball and basketball teams. He was recruited to play defensive back for Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, but turned his focus to academics after sustaining a serious knee injury before his freshman year. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics in 1981.
Intern to NFL Commissioner
After college, Roger Goodell wrote letters to every National Football League team in search of a job. He finally landed an internship with the league's front office the following spring, and after a season as an intern with the New York Jets, he returned to the front office for good in 1984.
Ambitious and hardworking, Goodell was promoted to assistant of the president of the American Football Conference in 1987. He was named director of international development and club administration in 1990 and continued working his way up the chain, becoming executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2001. When NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced he was stepping down in 2006, Goodell was the logical choice to take over as his successor.
Actions and Controversy as Commissioner
As NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell quickly established himself with a hard-line approach. After implementing a new personal conduct policy for the league, he delivered lengthy suspensions to cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and quarterback Michael Vick for off-the-field incidents, and announced lockouts of the NFL players in 2011 and referees in 2012 over contractual issues.
Goodell also came under fire for an array of issues. He refused to acknowledge the mounting evidence of brain trauma in former NFL players before a House Judiciary Committee in 2009, though he subsequently established the Legacy Fund to support retired players and enacted rules changes for safer play. In 2012, he rankled many throughout the league with his heavy-handed punishment for "Bountygate," a system in which New Orleans Saints players were allegedly rewarded for injuring opponents.
Goodell also drew criticism in 2014 for his handling of the domestic violence issues of running backs Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. The following year, he suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following an investigation into his use of illegally deflated footballs during a playoff game. His rulings in all three cases were overturned by a judge.
Despite the legal setbacks and negative press, Goodell earned the approval of NFL owners for negotiating a lengthy collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association and lucrative broadcasting deals with several networks. Furthermore, league revenue, which was around $6 billion when Goodell took office in 2006, more than doubled before the end of his first decade as commissioner.
Goodell has twin daughters with wife Jane Skinner, a former Fox News anchor. Outside of his NFL responsibilities, he serves on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City and Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville.
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