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Goodell signs contract extension that could reach nearly $40 million per year

By: Mark Maske, The Washington Post
December 6, 2017 Updated: December 6, 2017 at 2:30 pm
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FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2017, file photo, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference in New York. The AP reported Nov. 3, 2017, that a viral online story claiming Goodell had been ousted from his post leading the league was untrue. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

NFL owners have completed an agreement with Commissioner Roger Goodell on a five-year contract extension. According to a memo sent Wednesday by owners on the league's compensation committee, which negotiated the deal, the contract is done and signed.

The deal runs through 2024, with Goodell's compensation expected to top out at a maximum of nearly $40 million per season, though close to 90 percent of that pay would be tied to incentives.

The agreement is between Goodell and owners on the compensation committee, led by the Atlanta Falcons' Arthur Blank. The compensation committee informed the other owners via a memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

It is not clear whether the deal will run into further opposition from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who threatened at one point to sue over Goodell's extension but since has rescinded that threat.

Owners are scheduled to meet Dec. 12-13 in Dallas. Jones sought increased input by owners not on the compensation committee into Goodell's contract, and a final ratification vote by all owners once the deal was completed.

The league has maintained that there will not be another vote of the owners. The owners voted, 32-0, at their May meeting in Chicago to authorize the compensation committee to negotiate the new deal with Goodell.

Jones served for a period of time as a non-voting member of the compensation committee. But that arrangement ended after he informed other committee members that he'd hired attorney David Boies and was prepared to file a lawsuit opposing Goodell's extension.

That began a tense standoff between Jones and other owners. There was a flurry of threats, accusations and letters sent back and forth. Jones accused Blank of misleading owners about the negotiations. He contended that such a significant investment in the commissioner was not justified at a time when the league was facing financial hardships.

Others owners, in return, accused Jones of being guilty of conduct detrimental to the league. There was talk of potential penalties that could include a fine, suspension or the loss of a Cowboys' draft pick or picks. There were reports about the possibility of Jones being forced to sell the Cowboys, a franchise with an estimated value of more than $4 billion. But those reports about Jones being stripped of his franchise were dismissed by people familiar with the league's inner workings as unrealistic.

Jones subsequently indicated he would not sue, saying he'd been satisfied that other owners would have increased input into the process. The league said there had been no agreement with Jones for the threat of a lawsuit to be dropped in exchange for a final ratification vote by all owners.

Goodell's extension would keep him in place through the league's negotiations for its next collective bargaining agreement with the players' union and its next set of television contracts. Owners locked out the players prior to the last labor deal being struck in 2011. In September, player leaders voted to retain DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the NFL Players Association while barring other candidates from vying for the job during this election cycle.

TV ratings for NFL games have sagged over the past two seasons, and this season the league and Goodell have faced intense criticism by President Donald Trump and some fans about players' protests during the national anthem. Owners declined to enact a rule when they met in October requiring players to stand for the anthem. They said they instead were focused on discussions with the players about league support of players' community activism.

Those discussions culminated with an agreement on a social-justice initiative by which the league and owners would contribute about $90 million between the onset of the deal and 2023 to social causes considered important to players, particularly in African-American communities. Both sides have said the agreement does not require players to stand for the anthem. People familiar with the owners' thinking have said they could act in the offseason, if the protests last this entire season, to change the anthem policy for next season and keep players in the locker rooms until after the anthem is played, which would be similar to the sport's pre-2009 approach.

A memo sent from the compensation committee to other owners Wednesday said that "a binding contract extension has been signed by the Commissioner and by Arthur Blank, on behalf of the League entities."

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, also said: "We are pleased to have resolved this issue and we appreciate the strong support received from our partners. It was particularly gratifying to hear so many owners commit to being more engaged in League affairs and to express the desire to work more closely with the Commissioner and League staff on matters critical to the League. We know that we speak for all of you, as well as for the Commissioner, in saying that the NFL is strongest when our ownership is active and unified."

The memo says that owners were informed by committee members "in recent days" of the contract's details.

"Our Committee unanimously supports the contract and believes that it is fully consistent with 'market' compensation and the financial and other parameters outlined to the owners at our May 2017 meeting, as well as in the best interests of ownership," the memo said. "We also have expressed in those conversations our strong and unanimous belief that we should proceed to sign the agreement now, consistent with the unanimous May resolution and to avoid further controversy surrounding this issue.‎ We are pleased to report that there is a nearly unanimous consensus among the ownership in favor of signing the contract extension now."

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