|Anna Wintour and Roger Goodell at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week earlier this month. (Getty Images)|
It has been 367 days since the news of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's salary caused this reaction from Falcons wide receiver Roddy White:
And that was when Goodell was reportedly pulling down a paltry $20 million a year. On Friday, we learned that the number was actually $29.5 million. But how did we come into this information? Did Rog leave his pay stubs lying around company headquarters? Was it leaked to make him look bad?
No and no. Turns out, the multi-billion dollar money-making machine that is the NFL is, in the eyes of the government, a nonprofit organization. Thanks to an exemption written into the tax code, the league is exempt from federal corporate taxes. U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) explained the particulars in Wastebook 2012 (via this story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Jay Bookman published in October 2012, by way of Deadspin):
In 2010, the registered NFL nonprofit alone received $184 million from its 32 member teams. It holds over $1 billion in assets. Together with its subsidiaries and teams -- many of which are for-profit, taxed entities -- the NFL generates an estimated $9 billion annually. Each of its teams are among the top 50 most expensive sports teams in the world, ranking alongside the world's famous soccer teams. Almost half of professional football teams are valued at over $1 billion….
League commissioners and officials benefit from the nonprofit status of their organizations. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, reported $11.6 million in salary and perks in 2010 alone. Goodell's salary will reportedly reach $20 million in 2019. Steve Bornstein, the executive vice president of media, made $12.2 million in 2010. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue earned $8.5 million from the league in 2010. The league paid five other officials a total of $19.2 million in just one year. In comparison, the next highest salary of a traditional nonprofit CEO is $3.4 million.
The downside -- if you want to call it that -- is that this tax exemption also makes Goodell's salary publicly available. As the AJC's Bookman wrote last fall, "Major League Baseball also used to enjoy the same tax-exempt protection, but in 2007 it chose to surrender that status in part because as the salary information above illustrates, tax-exempt, non-profit status requires you to report the salaries of your top executives. MLB decided that protecting that information from the public was more important than escaping taxes."
If we've learned anything about Goodell, it's that he seems impervious to criticism. Cashing checks that total some $29 million annually no doubt help with that.