The NFL is embroiled in a power struggle. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly wants to oust commissioner Roger Goodell after the league suspended his star running back amid domestic assault allegations. And Goodell, who had already botched disciplinary measures as serious as Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out in an elevator and as ridiculous as Tom Brady’s bout with the Ideal Gas Law, countering with contract demands of a $49 million annual salary and use of a private jet for life.
It all seems very NFL, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted nothing to do with it.
You will be shocked to hear the man who named himself team president and general manager after purchasing the Cowboys has a replacement commissioner in mind who may or may not be himself, and the man whose league office manipulated scientific data to willfully ignore the risk player safety believes he is irreplaceable. Either way, there is no clear predecessor like there was when Goodell took over NFL duties for Paul Tagliabue in 2006 or Silver followed David Stern’s NBA footsteps in 2014.
As a result, we’re treated to this nugget in a bombshell report from ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham entitled, “Roger Goodell has a Jerry Jones problem and nobody knows how it will end“:
The owners, though, have considered other successors. A confidant of one owner reached out to gauge whether Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, would be interested in running the NFL, to which Silver immediately said no.
Immediately. Said. No.
The NBA commissioner’s salary isn’t as publicized as Goodell’s, which has reportedly ranged between $35 and $44 million in recent years, but Forbes magazine pegged Stern’s salary around $20 million in 2012, and less reliable guesstimates have Silver’s annual payday hovering around half that figure. Whatever the actual terms are, Silver’s already sizable salary would multiply if he changed leagues.
But Silver has worked for the NBA since 1992, rising from special assistant to the commissioner in his quarter-century of service before succeeding Stern, and he’s a lifelong basketball fan. These are no small considerations when you’re choosing which billion-dollar industry you would like to steward.
Silver also has strong convictions that haven’t always aligned with the NFL’s brand. Where the NBA commissioner has participated in New York’s Pride March and “encouraged players to express their views on matters that are important to them,” the NFL hasn’t always been so openly progressive. The leagues cater to different audiences, and who’s to say Silver’s approach would succeed in the NFL?
Asked by TMZ Sports last year what part of his job is toughest, Silver said, “I’ve got such a great job. I don’t have many tough parts.” When a follow-up question question came about which commissioner job is tougher — NBA or NFL — Silver said, “Roger’s got a tough job. Roger’s got a very tough job.”
Besides, Silver has called Goodell “a friend,” and the former doesn’t come across as someone who would go about usurping an associate’s job or limiting his bargaining power in nefarious ways.
One could argue that the NBA commissioner’s public support of his players and his handling of Donald Sterling, who was caught on tape making racist comments and forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers soon after Silver took over for Stern, united the league behind him. Goodell hasn’t come close to earning that trust from players or owners. This is probably why Silver was named the Sports Business Journal’s most influential person, and he regularly ranks ahead of Goodell on such lists.
Maybe that kind of leadership would serve the NFL well, and it makes sense the league would call.
It also makes sense Silver would turn the NFL down so decisively. Even as football maintains a solid lead in TV ratings, the NBA and NFL have been headed in opposite directions on viewership and average audience age, with basketball seeing more positive signs of growth. Silver has been on the forefront of the NBA’s prosperity, with far less controversy to concern himself with, so consider both the NFL’s interest in him and his immediate rejection a small basketball victory in the world of sports.
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