Professional sports commissioners have incredibly demanding jobs. They are responsible for resolving disputes, negotiating contracts, handling disciplinary matters, and promoting the overall league. Every decision they make is scrutinized by the media and fans. As such, the pressure they face can often be high. But there is a tradeoff—sports commissioners are well-compensated for their high profile jobs. The best ones make salaries that rival those of the highest-paid players in their respective sports. Let's take a look at the top paid sports commissioners.
- Rob Manfred has been commissioner of the MLB since 2015, bringing in an estimated $11 million annually.
- Adam Silver earns about $10 million per year as commissioner of the NBA.
- The NHL's Gary Bettman, who earns as much as $9.6 million per year, is the longest-serving sports commissioner in history.
- Roger Goodell's salary as NFL commissioner is estimated between $4 and $5 million per year.
- Jay Monahan earns about $3.9 million per year as PGA Tour commissioner.
Rob Manfred: MLB Commissioner
- Appointment: 2015
- Base Salary: $11 million (estimate)
Like Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred has a long-standing history with Major League Baseball. His first stint came as an executive vice president in 1998, although he did work externally with the league since 1987. Manfred became commissioner in 2015 after Bud Selig retired from the position.
Manfred has taken steps to change some of the rules of the game including reducing how much time broadcasters are allowed to go to commercial breaks and to help speed up the game's pace itself. He's also been vocal in his push to expand the league to include newer cities such as Montreal, Nashville, and Las Vegas. There are 30 teams in total under the MLB Banner—15 in the National League and another 15 in the American League.
Manfred's contract was extended in 2018 through to 2024.
Adam Silver: NBA Commissioner
- Appointment: 2014
- Base Salary: $10 million (estimate)
Adam Silver served as deputy commissioner of the National Basketball Association between 2005 and 2014 before being approved as commissioner. He succeeded David Stern, who backed Silver's appointment to the role. Silver began his career with the NBA in 1992.
Silver has made several strides to help boost the league's image. In 2014, he imposed a lifetime ban and a fine on former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling after racist comments he made were leaked to the media.
The NBA extended Silver's contract by another five years in 2018. Terms of the new contract, though, were not disclosed.
Gary Bettman: NHL Commissioner
- Appointment: 1993
- Base Salary: $9.6 million
Gary Bettman is the longest-serving commissioner in professional sports history. He was appointed as commissioner of the National Hockey League in 1993 after Gil Stein retired. He took the job in order to bring order to the league, execute expansion plans, and help push the game into the U.S. market.
Bettman's efforts have helped expand the league from 24 teams when he first started as commissioner to 31—24 teams based in the United States and another seven in Canada. He brought the NHL to the Olympic Games and has been instrumental in negotiating broadcasting rights in both Canada and the United States. Rogers signed a 12-year contract in 2013 with the NHL under Bettman to broadcast games to Canadian households while NBC Sports began airing games as of the 2011-2012 season for a 10-year period.
The NHL went through three lockouts during Bettman's tenure as commissioner. The first took place during the 1994-1995 season and lasted 104 days. Another lockout ran about nine days during the 2004-2005 season, with the third lasting 113 days in the 2012-2013 season.
Sports commissioners are faced with demanding, high-pressure jobs that require skills in communications, negotiations, and contract settlement.
Roger Goodell: NFL Commissioner
- Appointment: 2006
- Base Salary: $4 to $5 million
Roger Goodell took the helms of the National Football League in 2006 after Paul Tagliabue retired. The NFL boss signed a new contract in 2017, extending his tenure until 2023. According to ESPN, the contract is worth $200 million, equating to about $40 million per year. He rakes in about $4 to $5 million in salary per year, while his remaining earnings are incentive-based.
Goodell's history with the league goes back more than three decades. Goodell joined the NFL as an intern in 1982 in New York's league office before becoming an assistant in the public relations (PR) office. In 1987, Goodell was appointed assistant to the president of the American Football Conference and later took on more executive roles in the league before being approved as commissioner.
Since taking over the reins, he's tried to make the league more profitable. In fact, the league's revenues have steadily increased under his leadership. According to Statista, the league earned almost $14.5 billion in 2018, compared to $6.2 billion in 2005. He's also introduced cost-cutting measures including eliminating his salary indefinitely—along with those of other executives—and furloughing some employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goodell has also introduced measures allowing the league to retain its integrity. For instance, the NFL introduced a new conduct policy in 2007 that aimed to bolster its image by holding players responsible for behavior on and off the field. As many as seven players have been suspended since 2011 under the policy.
Jay Monahan: PGA Tour Commissioner
- Appointment: 2017
- Base Salary: $3.9 million (estimate)
Jay Monahan joined the Professional Golfers' Association Tour as its executive director in 2008 before becoming executive vice president and chief marketing officer in 2013. Like Silver, Monahan was deputy commissioner for the tour before taking over as tour commissioner after Tim Finchem retired in 2016.
Under Monahan's leadership, the tour signed a nine-year media deal worth $700 million, securing rights for names like ESPN, NBC Sports, and ViacomCBS to broadcast the tour that features big names like Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, and Jordan Spieth.
The Bottom Line
Professional sports commissioners make a nice living as the chief executive officers (CEOs) of sports leagues. Unlike players, they can continue earning large salaries for 20 years or more if they choose to do so. So maybe it's time to put down the baseball bat and start practicing your contract negotiation skills.