Paul Tagliabue: Wikis


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Paul Tagliabue
Paul Tagliabue crop.jpg
Date of birth November 24, 1940 (1940-11-24) (age 69)
Place of birth Jersey City, New Jersey
Position(s) Commissioner
College Georgetown University
Team(s) as a coach/administrator
1989-2005 National Football League

Paul John Tagliabue (born November 24, 1940) is a former Commissioner of the National Football League. He took the position in 1989 and was succeeded by Roger Goodell, who was elected to the position on August 8, 2006. Tagliabue's retirement took effect on September 1, 2006. He had previously served as a lawyer for the NFL.



Tagliabue was born in Jersey City, New Jersey].[1] He received an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Georgetown University and was captain of the 1961-1962 team. He graduated in 1962 as president of his senior class, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and a Dean's List graduate.

Tagliabue graduated from New York University School of Law in 1965. He has received honorary degrees from Colgate University and Northeastern University.[2]

National Football League

After serving as a lawyer for the NFL, Tagliabue was selected by NFL owners to succeed Pete Rozelle as Commissioner of the NFL in 1989.

Expansion of the league

During his tenure as league's commissioner, six new franchises were introduced to the six different cities in the US. The Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans all joined the league as expansion teams while the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and St.Louis Rams were relocated from Cleveland, Houston and Los Angeles respectively. Subsequently, the Cleveland Browns were reintroduced as a continuation of the previous version of the franchise in 1999. The Ravens were actually considered an expansion team. The records, name, and colors of the Browns remained in Cleveland, to be assumed by the new team. The Oakland Raiders were moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995.

Response to September 11 attacks

Two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Tagliabue announced that the games scheduled for the upcoming weekend were canceled. Tagliabue said the NFL was acutely aware of Commissioner Pete Rozelle's well-publicized regret not to cancel the games on the weekend following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963[3].

It was the first time the league canceled an entire week's slate of games since the 1987 NFL strike.

A week later, it was announced that the postponed games would be added to the end of the regular season, pushing the Super Bowl into February for the first time.



Tagliabue is widely regarded to have done an outstanding job as commissioner, with some sports writers going so far as to call him the greatest commissioner in the history of North American professional sport. This is an incredible achievement in and of itself, magnified by the fact of the person he replaced: Pete Rozelle, the man that orchestrated the NFL-AFL merger and arguably brought the NFL to prominence. Tagliabue is generally regarded with respect by the sports media, which has given him the nickname Tags (first affixed by the New York Daily News).

Proponents of the claim of Tagliabue's greatness point to such accomplishments as:

  • No players' strikes or lockouts during Tagliabue's term, an accomplishment unmatched by any of the other current commissioners. He made it a priority to develop a strong relationship with the players' union and its head, Gene Upshaw, from the start of his tenure. Furthermore, in 2006, Tagliabue ended his tenure as commissioner by negotiating a new agreement with the NFL players' union that averted an uncapped year and potential labor stoppage. The agreement ensures labor peace for a few years but it remains for his successor to flesh out and build upon it in order to ensure labor peace in the long term. NFL owners have since voted to terminate the agreement after the 2010 season.
  • He took a stand against the State of Arizona for refusing to establish a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., like other states had done. In 1993, the Super Bowl was to be held for the first time in Arizona, but after an election, Arizona rejected establishment of a Martin Luther King state holiday. Subsequently, Tagliabue moved the Super Bowl to Pasadena. [4][5][6]
  • The strengthening of revenue sharing, which is far more extensive than any other major league, and the institution of a salary cap system that is the strictest of any of the major leagues. Both revenue sharing and the salary cap were successfully introduced without recourse to work stoppages. They help contribute to competitive balance. There has been a growing imbalance between high-revenue and low-revenue teams for many years. In 2006, as part of the CBA agreement, Tagliabue worked with the owners on an enhanced revenue-sharing system. Under the agreement, the top 15 franchises (in terms of revenue) will contribute nearly $500 million over the first four years of the agreement into a pool for use by lower-revenue teams. Franchises which have expenses in excess of a predetermined percentage or level of their revenues will be able to draw from the fund. Lower-revenue teams will as a result have a stronger financial foundation and be better positioned to pay the increased player salaries that come with a growing salary cap. Still, details remain to be worked out and it is not yet known how effective this system will be. The owners can also opt out of the agreement in four years. This agreement comes in addition to the supplemental revenue-sharing pool (which distributes revenue unequally based on need) that was established in the 1990s.
  • Many promotional rights and all regular-season television rights continue to reside at the league-level, rather than at the team level. By collectively negotiating, the league is able to extract a premium from sponsors and media companies and provide revenue to smaller-market teams that they on their own could not garner.
  • Supporting the football institutional base: Tagliabue emphasized the need for there to be strong youth, high school, and college football programs around the country in order for the NFL to thrive. The NFL runs a youth football program to promote its sport. Tagliabue also focused on reaching out to women and Hispanics in order to tap into two key demographics.
  • Seventeen new stadiums built during Tagliabue's tenure: More than half of the league is playing in stadiums that did not exist when Tagliabue took office. In some cases Tagliabue was able to help secure government financing to cover the cost of these expensive structures. Since government financing is controversial and not sufficient, he also launched a major effort to raise private capital for new stadiums, including offering NFL teams grants from the league office derived from assessments made against television revenue. By providing grants to teams under the G-3 program, the league facilitated with the creation of many new stadiums. Larger-market teams receive larger grants since the NFL wants to keep teams in the major media markets. The improved atmosphere of the new stadiums led to increased attendances, especially by women and children, and the greater number and higher quality of the luxury suites in the stadiums led to substantial source of revenue growth for clubs.
  • The strictest substance abuse policy of any professional league. Tagliabue's hard line against drug abuse has led to increased respect for NFL players and even been complimented by members of the U.S. Congress. He also has stressed presenting a professional and clean image of the NFL and its players to the public. Strict rules are in place and enforced as to players' sock length, uniform appearance, and sideline attire. Protecting the NFL brand from tarnishment was a key priority.
  • TV rights contracts and the NFL Network: 55% of the NFL's revenues are from its television contracts and under Tagliabue the revenue from these contracts grew substantially each time the NFL negotiated them with the major media companies. Also, the NFL Network, a NFL-owned cable station, was launched. It provides the NFL direct access to its fans, leverage with the media companies when it comes to broadcast rights fees (since some games can be shown on the NFL Network), and the opportunity to experiment with a small slate of games and test new ways of broadcasting games. Tagliabue also emphasized the important role digital media rights would play in the 21st century both as a source of revenue and as a means of providing fans with content.
  • A separation in the popularity between the NFL compared to the other North American major sports leagues which took place over his 16-year tenure. Although the NFL was undoubtedly already a major league when Tagliabue took office, he will leave the NFL as the world's most lucrative sports league with annual revenues that tower over its three main North American rivals and its one major financial rival in Europe—despite the fact that the NFL plays a much shorter schedule and only a fraction of the games played by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, or the Premier League in English soccer.
  • International expansion: Tagliabue encouraged the growth of the game internationally, supporting NFL Europe despite financial losses and holding the first regular-season game outside of the U.S. in the 2005 season when two teams played in Mexico. Tagliabue set in motion plans to try to expand the game in Asia, although his successor will have to follow through on that strategy.
  • A very high level of competition from a great number of teams, including those in small media markets. The Packers, for instance have found a great amount of success despite their small location in Wisconsin.


However, Tagliabue's time in office has not come and gone without its share of critics, who point to:

  • The expansion debacle that saw the NFL place new franchises in Charlotte, NC and Jacksonville, FL. The early struggles of the Panthers to sell out their home games, on top of the on-going struggles of Jacksonville to even come close to selling out their home games (large sections of the stadium are routinely blocked off and covered up to avoid local TV blackout restrictions), have called in to question the wisdom of the leagues decisions in that "expansion derby." Cities such as St. Louis and Baltimore, who both had far more lucrative financial / stadium packages in place, and a history with the league, were passed over in favor of "newer markets." Tagliabue demonstrated his apparent disdain for Baltimore during this expansion, most notably with the televised statement "some towns are football towns and some towns are museum towns. I guess Baltimore is a museum town." In the end, both cities would acquire franchises from other cities, thus continuing a difficult and disappointing trend of franchise relocation.
  • The re-location of both Los Angeles franchises and the subsequent failure to replace at least one of them in the second largest U.S. city. Tagliabue instead chose to replace teams in Cleveland and Houston. However, Tagliabue's supporters point out that Cleveland and Houston both agreed to replace their dilapidated stadiums with government financing, something that California politicians have generally been unwilling to do. They also point out that Tagliabue subtly used the threat of re-locating a team back to Los Angeles as a powerful hammer to convince other NFL cities to replace or at least upgrade their stadiums.
  • The increasing revenue disparity between high and low revenue teams. The owners have yet to come to a firm and detailed solution as to how to address the increasing disparities.
  • The delayed impasse with the players' association over key issues: Tagliabue was able to end his tenure with a CBA extension in 2006 but his last CBA extension as Commissioner did not resolve many key issues. Revenue-sharing among the owners remains an area of disagreement. The details of the terms the NFL and players' association agreed have not been resolved by the parties. Some feel the players' union received too much from the league in the latest round. Finally, the labor pact is a short-term solution that is now set to be terminated in 2011. It defers many key issues down the road for Tagliabue's successor to deal with.
  • The pursuit of what some see as excessively strict rules against taunting, "show-boating", dress code violations, etc. It is believed Tagliabue's efforts to protect the NFL brand went too far and caused many fans to describe the NFL as the No Fun League.
  • Lack of charisma and football background: Tagliabue made limited public appearances and was never considered a charismatic speaker. However, behind closed doors he was more at ease and helped broker many deals with his wit and humor. At the same time, Tagliabue faced the stigma among some owners of being the league's lawyer, rather than a man from a football background, when he was selected for the post in 1989. Eventually, he won over many of his critics, although he is still not regarded as a "football guy".
  • The ultimate failure of NFL Europa, which was disbanded the year after Tagliabue's departure.

Tagliabue's legacy of labor peace was the center of controversy when veteran sportscaster Bryant Gumbel suggested the commissioner had manipulated NFLPA leader Gene Upshaw and questioned Upshaw's competence as a union leader. Gumbel closed the August 15, 2006 episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel with the following remarks, directed at Tagliabue's successor: "Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players' union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch."[7] Tagliabue strongly criticized Gumbel for his comments.

Some of Tagliabue's supporters have countered that more responsibility for worsening labor relations should rest with current commissioner Roger Goodell. They argue that Tagliabue's successor has failed to maintain the close relationships that Tagliabue is said to have had with both the owners and the union leadership, and that this failure is not Tagliabue's fault.

Notes and references

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Pete Rozelle
Commissioner of the National Football League
Succeeded by
Roger Goodell

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