Let me preface this by saying I'm no accountant, but It doesn't take a professional accountant to notice some interesting numbers in the NFL's financial filings. First of all, if you didn't already know, until 2016 the NFL was classified as a Not-For-Profit, Tax Exempt Organization and has been, under IRC 501(c)(6) since 1966. If you are as puzzled by this as I was, you can find a good article explaining things here. Essentially, the measure was tacked on in order to allow for the NFL-AFL merger. Now, in all fairness, before you get out your pitchforks you should know that the majority of the League's revenue is distributed amongst the 32 individual franchises who ARE taxed. But this tax-exempt status becomes important as we look at the NFL Front Office's financials.
Because the NFL is listed as a Not-For-Profit, they are required to publicly file their financials in 990 tax forms that are available on Guidestar.org. Let's start by taking a look at the financials from 2015.
Next, let's take a look at employee salaries.
You should notice that Comissioner Roger Goodell's salary dropped from 35 million in 2014 to a mere 13 million in 2015.
(P.S. you can't fool us by leaving out the commas in your salary Roger. We're on to you) Now as much as I would love to believe that this is the NFL's reaction to the public outcry over Goodell's salary following a series of mishandled disciplinary cases (Bountygate, Ray Rice, Deflategate, Greg Hardy, ect.) however, there is a far more likely scenario taking place here.
This is where the importance of the NFL's not-for-profit label comes in. In April, 2015 the League decided that they would be renouncing their tax-exempt status going forward. Why would they do this? Well, once the league is no longer a no-for-profit organization, they don't have to make their financials public. I am certain that Roger Goodell will be receiving some kind of deferred payment in 2016 to compensate for his reduced 2015 salary, but it won't be made public. Neither will any of the other financial exploits that I'm sure the league is setting itself up to take advantage of with the distorted financials in 2015.