By Ken Reed

Fay Vincent was the last real commissioner in pro sports and Bart Giamatti was the last real commissioner who was good at his job: protecting the best interests of baseball.

MLB owners fired Vincent because he wasn’t focusing on what they wanted him to focus on — making them more money. They then hired one of their own, Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, to become commissioner and, in effect, told him “You are now CEO and in charge of revenue generation. That guardian of the game bit? You can forget that.”

Will Leitch, writing in New York Magazine, has come up with a good idea (actually Joe Sheehan, one of the founders of Baseball Prospectus, originated the idea), let the commissioners of the four major pro sports leagues — NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — focus on being the owners’ financial representatives, and create a new position in each league charged with protecting our games. These new positions could be called chief baseball officer, chief football officer, chief basketball officer, and chief hockey officer.

As Leitch writes:

“This person would be in charge of game play — the gentle tending of the game and its place in American life — solely. He would have nothing to do with the financials whatsoever. Think of it like the church-state separation that exists between the editorial and advertising departments of a newspaper. (Well, the church-state separation that used to exist, anyway.)”

The people in this new role would truly focus on what’s best for the game and all of its stakeholders. They’d be caretakers for their sports, which are huge socio-cultural institutions in the United States. As public ambassadors for their sports, they’d have a significant public relations role.

This type of model would have helped the NFL during the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson nightmares (and saved commissioner Roger Goodell from making a total fool of himself). Goodell, who makes about $44 million a year, might be good at making his owners and himself a lot of money but he’s terrible in the role of caretaker of the game.

For our sake, for the sake of the sports we love, and to save Roger Goodell from himself, this model should be adopted by our four major pro sports leagues.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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