Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport

By Michael Oriard | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

Paul Tagliabue's announcement on March 20, 2006, that he was stepping down as commissioner presented an obvious occasion for assessing the state of the National Football League after nearly 17 years of his guidance. Tagliabue broke the news just 12 days after the owners resolved their dispute over revenue sharing, in principle anyway, in order to extend their collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association through 2011. This was the commissioner's last piece of unfinished business, and it was most fitting that this was so, because Tagliabue's principle legacy to the NFL, and the achievement he claims most to prize, is labor peace. Tagliabue strengthened all three pillars of the new NFL. In a considerably more complex media environment than Pete Rozelle ever faced, Tagliabue positioned the NFL for one astonishingly lucrative set of agreements with the television networks after another. Al Davis and Jerry Jones initially drove the pursuit of new and upgraded stadiums, but Tagliabue through the G-3 program and in other ways nurtured the stadium boom while applying at least a little friction to the franchise free agency that could have been much more disruptive than it was. As new technologies transformed the media landscape, Tagliabue repeatedly positioned the NFL to take advantage of the latest and most profitable. His one notable failure—to place a franchise in Los Angeles after 1995—seems driven by factors beyond his control.1

According to Forbes magazine, Tagliabue's greatest achievement was “the creation of a tremendous amount of wealth for his bosses.”2 But labor peace was Tagliabue's highest priority on becoming commission, and I am convinced that history will judge it to be his most important legacy. Labor peace created the stability that freed owners to pursue new revenue streams and spared fans yet another troubling spectacle of millionaires striking for more money. For Tagliabue, agreeing with Gene Upshaw and the Players Association on the extension in 2006 was easy. Persuading the feuding owners to accept more revenue sharing to make the extension possible marks his major triumph in keeping alive the league-first philosophy on which the NFL has uniquely prospered. (Although Tagliabue was subsequently criticized for conceding too much to the players, the fault belonged entirely to the owners, whose delaying past the deadline left them no real choice but to leap at Upshaw's final offer.)

-250-

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Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Creation of the Modern Nfl in the 1960s 10
  • 2: No Freedom, No Football 55
  • 3: The End of the Rozelle Era 95
  • 4: The New Nfl 140
  • 5: Football as Product 175
  • 6: Football in Black and White 210
  • Conclusion 250
  • Notes 259
  • Acknowledgments 309
  • Index 311
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