Roger Goodell has stamped his imprint all over the most valuable sports brand in the U.S. When he became NFL commissioner in 2006, he took a hard line against player misconduct, handing out steep suspensions for bad off-field behavior. Now, after evidence has emerged that head contact sustained in football could be responsible for long-term brain damage, Goodell is preaching player safety: he has enacted rule changes that seek to prevent dangerous hits and went so far as to suspend the coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, for an entire season because of the team’s bounty program. (Though former commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated Goodell’s suspensions of four Saints players, saying Goodell went too far). These heavy-handed calls ‹ plus the NFL’s mishandling of referee labor talks earlier this year and the replacement refs’ subsequent comedic performance in the opening weeks have made Goodell, 53, a divisive figure among both players and fans. But bottom line: during his tenure, the NFL’s popularity has grown. League revenue is up 30%, approaching $10 billion.
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