In the U.S., professional athletes and coaches are famous for having every detail of their salaries released to the public. But what about the commissioners who run the leagues? For the four major American sports leagues — the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL — their commissioners seldom reveal their salaries to the public. Without them, the sports we love so much and athletes we marvel at wouldn’t be able to exist. The commissioners are some of the most important people in American sports, and they sure are paid like it.
Who are the four major commissioners in the U.S.?
Probably the most well-known commissioner in American sports is Roger Goodell. Goodell has been the commissioner of the NFL since 2006. Over the past few seasons, Goodell has made it a priority to increase the on-field safety precautions as concussions rise. CTE has been a prevalent issue in football, as more and more former players are being diagnosed. Goodell’s equipment changes and increased penalties for illegal hits have been beneficial to player safety.
Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, has been in his role since 2014. Silver took over for long-time commissioner David Stern. He’s been working in the NBA circle since 1992, holding multiple different positions before becoming Stern’s Special Assistant to the Commissioner. He was unanimously voted in as commissioner by the NBA Board of Governors six years ago, proving he’s been a respected name in the league for many years.
Rob Manfred replaced Bug Selig as the MLB commissioner in 2015. Manfred studied law at Cornell University. He worked as a lawyer until 1987 when he first began working with the MLB. He represented the league in collective bargaining agreements in 2002, 2006, and 2013. As commissioner, Manfred has instituted pace-of-play rules that the MLB was in need of for years.
Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, is the longest-serving commissioner in American sports. He has been in his role since 1993. Like Manfred, Bettman went to law school in hopes of becoming a lawyer. He started his career in sports with the NBA, but the NHL came calling in 1993 after Gil Stein stepped down as president of the league. Bettman was instrumental in adding seven new franchises to the NHL, as well as adding outdoor hockey games.
How much money does each commissioner make?
Unsurprisingly, Roger Goodell makes the most of all the U.S. commissioners, and it isn’t particularly close either. The most recent public disclosure of Goodell’s salary showed he made $31.7 million in 2015. Celebrity Net Worth predicts his current salary to be over $40 million with bonuses. His total earnings as commissioner have exceeded $330 million.
As for Adam Silver, he makes far less than Goodell. His current contract is estimated to give him $10 million this year. Silver signed a five-year extension in 2018 that will make him the commissioner of the NBA through 2023. His salary will only increase the longer he stays in his current role. It was estimated that David Stern made over $20 million before he left the NBA.
Rob Manfred’s salary with bonuses is estimated to be close to $11 million. Like Silver, his salary will only increase the longer he serves as commissioner. Bug Selig was making around $22 million before he stepped down from his post.
Even though he is the longest-tenured commissioner, Gary Bettman makes the lowest per year of all the major commissioners at $9.6 million. Bettman will have another chance to renegotiate when his current contract expires in 2022.
How does each commissioner’s salary compare to his athletes?
Russell Wilson just signed a four year, $140 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks last year, making him the highest-paid player in the league. His $35 million average annual salary is still less than Goodell’s, which most likely over $40 million.
The NBA features multiple players who make more than Wilson on a per-year basis. This season, Steph Curry is making $40.1 million in salary. Silver is making almost $30 million less than his highest-paid star.
In MLB, huge contracts have become more popular recently. Mike Trout signed a massive contract extension worth $426.5 million over 12 years. Trout will make $36 million in base salary in 2020, more than three times the amount of Manfred’s salary for this season.
NHL contracts are far more reasonable. Alexander Ovechkin makes $10 million per year, right around what Bettman makes in salary per season.