OT: Worst Commissioners in American Sports History

Submitted by LS And Play on May 11th, 2015 at 7:08 PM

In response to the, um, heavy handed penalties issued to Tom Brady and the Patriots, I began to create a list of the worst commissioners in American sports history. My short list:

1. Roger Goodell -- He just seems to make shit up as he goes along. Words like arbitrary and capricious come to mind. The examples are too endless to mention.

2. Gary Bettman -- Several lockouts, the disastrous expansion of hockey to impossible-to-succeed markets, presided over a huge decline in popularity of the sport, general incompetence.

3. Fay Vincent -- So bad that the owners booted him from his position.

What is your list of the worst sports commissioners of all-time? 



May 11th, 2015 at 7:32 PM ^

Depends on what you consider the job of the commissioner is.

The NFL is making more money and growing more under Goodell than ever before (see the huge TV contract negotiated under his watch.

He reached the concussion settlement which is a sigh of relief for the NFL.

Bettman greatly hurt the growth of the league with the multiple lockouts.

As an NHL and NFL fan I would take Goodell over Bettman 100% of the time.

Yostbound and Down

May 11th, 2015 at 7:47 PM ^

Bettman also had a  real union to deal with/against compared to the joke that is the NFLPA... and between the two lockouts there was much more of a structural change to the finances of the league than the NFL has ever had to deal with. Plus, Goodell locked out the referees which was a huge deal at the time.

Much of the precedent for the NFL contracts was set by Tagliabue, Goodell was handed a league that was already printing money. When everyone wants to throw money at you it's not that hard to negotiate a massive deal.

He failed to take the lead on the concussion suit in the first place, and thus led to the League of Denial documentary. 

The 2005 lockout I agree, but the most recent lockout if anything seemed to grow the popularity of the NHL...also, Bettman did the Rogers TV deal in Canada which is on par in terms of magnitude (if obviously not real economic value) as the NFL deal.

As flaky as DoPS is the absurdity of their suspensions pale in comparison to Goodell.


May 12th, 2015 at 7:16 AM ^

So bettman is better because there was only a lockout everytime he had to negotiate with the union?

I'm not saying that Goodell is a good commissioner but the league has grown substantially since her took over. The league has also turned to Teflon with him around. He absorbs the vast majority of the bad press Keeping the teams and owners squeaky clean.


May 12th, 2015 at 7:20 AM ^

Before the 2005 lockout the NHL had a deal with ESPN for Wednesday night hockey and NHL2nite which was getting a lot of backing by ESPN to try and grow the sport and boost ratings. You would actually see hockey on sportscenter other than a 30 second segment on last night's Stanley Cup champ once a year.

Ronnie Kaye

May 11th, 2015 at 7:19 PM ^

Fay Vincent doesn't belong on there. He was kicked out of an owners meeting not because he was "bad" but because he did not see the commissioner position as being a lackey to the owners. Some gave him a title of The Last Commissioner since he put fan interest above the money men, a dying philosophy at the time and a true relic in sports today.


May 11th, 2015 at 9:43 PM ^

I was about to say... How the fuck is Fay Vincent on this list? Dude stood up to owners and actually made some reasonable decisions unlike the stooge that is Bud Selig. 

This brings me to my other point. HOW IS BUD SELIG NOT ON THIS LIST? 

Blatantly turning a blind eye to the steroid era damaging the sport's reputation in the process causing this whole era of asterisks is just borderline stupidity. 


May 11th, 2015 at 7:29 PM ^

Every baseball commissioner who has kept the all-time hit king out of the hall of fame for something he did as a manager. Players who have cheated while playing the game are in and he is not, that is a travesty.


May 11th, 2015 at 7:55 PM ^

what he did as a player is among the all-time greats. If you want to hold him accountable for his actions as a manager and say he can never be associated with baseball again that's fine and I agree with it, but what he did as a player? There is no question.


May 11th, 2015 at 9:48 PM ^

Joe Jackson deserves to be in before Pete Rose. Jackson didn't throw the series and didn't gamble - he knew about it and tried to return the money, and was up there with The Babe as best player of the era. Any talk of Pete Rose should wait for Joe Jackson.

Also Bucky Weaver, but he wouldn't be in the HoF. He is even more deserving than Shoeless Joe of having his name cleared


May 11th, 2015 at 8:04 PM ^

If I wasn't on my phone I'd neg you for thinking betting on your team is worth that penalty. I don't think it's faultless. He didn't bet on all of hours team's games which meant he likely felt they were less likely to win some games and maybe he managed differently in games he bet on versus those he didn't. Life time ban though? No.


May 11th, 2015 at 7:44 PM ^

If I were Tom Brady, Id punch Goodell in his fat, arrogant, lying face.  At the very least I would never say another word to that a-hole.  In 10 years when he tries to buddy up at a fundraiser for a photo-op, Id have to be restrained from cold clocking him.

Goodell just ruined the legacy of the NFL's Greatest QB.




May 11th, 2015 at 8:11 PM ^

As brief as Fay Vincent's tenure was as the commissioner of the MLB, it certainly was filled with a lot of interesting decisions, at least in my view. I still remember when he ruled that Steve Howe was to be permanently suspended and then threatened to expel Buck Showalter and a couple others in the Yankees' organization when they offered to testify on Howe's behalf. The owners resented his intervention in the 1990 lockout too, as I recall, but I think the Howe fiasco sealed it for a fair number of them. I think part of it was that Vincent tried to be out in front of baseball, which was not something for which the owners - not very far removed from collusion charges in the 1980s - were quite in the mood.


May 11th, 2015 at 8:12 PM ^

I don't know that it's fair to simply call him the worst commissioner because of his whimsical decision making, and in order to make that determination you would first have to establish the criteria.  Unfortunately the greatest measure of a commissioner is how financially successful their league is.  Has the NFL lost any fans today? I doubt it.  We can all complain but people keep paying crap-tons of money to go to games, buy jerseys, etc.  He may look like a fool to the public eye but it's not like the NFL has gone down hill financially since he took over.

LS And Play

May 11th, 2015 at 8:20 PM ^

I don't think the greatest measure of a commissioner is financial success. That might be the way the owners view it, but not me. His actions over the last half dozen years have hurt the credibility of the league in many eyes. To your point, those people -- including myself -- still watch the sport,  but that is no thanks to Goodell. 


May 11th, 2015 at 9:12 PM ^

Bettman far worse than Goodell. The NFL is prospering. Bettman couldn't make a competent decision if it was written out for him.

Today's announcement doesn't make Goodell the worst, it's a tactic, it will come down on appeal, that's what he's anticipating. He is making shit up as he goes but out of necessity, his sport is in serious long term trouble.


May 11th, 2015 at 9:17 PM ^

Selig and Bettman are easily above Goodell for worst commissioner.  Selig waited idly by when his players and his owners were just letting steroids run rampant.  He presided over the strike that cancelled the World Series in 1994. He reinstated George Steinbrenner after he was banned for life by Vincent for paying some dirt bag to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield to justify nixing his 10 year contract.  He has pretty much screwed the Oakland As left and right from being able to leave Oakland.


Bettman has failed at every turn in terms of lock out issues.  2.5 cancelled seasons under his watch is just ridiculous.