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Gary Bettman weighs in on the evolution of the sports commissioner’s role

USA Today's Kevin Allen and Erik Brady penned a fascinating article about the ways in which the role of a professional sports commissioner has changed during the tenure of outgoing MLB commissioner Bug Selig, sourcing comments from Selig, his predecessor, Fay Vincent, preeminent sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, former MLBPA executive director and current NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and a certain Mark Cuban (NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chose to decline an interview).

The article both traces Selig's path and sets a greater historical context for the role of a sports commissioner and how it's evolved since Selig took the job in 1992...

"If you go back, (sports) talk radio was in its infancy, there was no Internet, no mobile, less television coverage, no out-of-market packages to speak of, there was no social media and digital platforms," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told USA TODAY Sports. "That's a longwinded way of saying there is more to do. … To be a commissioner you always had to multi-task. But there are now multiple tasks, compared to what there were."

And aside from spending a significant amount of text pointing out that it's not the commissioner who is "in charge" per se--it's the owners who any and every sports commissioner represents, and the owners' interests that he proffers--Bettman, who took the reins from John Ziegler, very specificially tells Allen and Brady about the evolution of the commissioner's position:

  • "For better or worse, the world seems more litigious," he says. "That is something you have to manage. And being a lawyer certainly helps."
  • "You need to be facile and adaptable with respect to the changes in media that are happening at breathtaking speed," he says. "You have to be on top of the industry."
  • "And finally you have to be prepared to look at A.) new business opportunities, such as international and the shrinking of the world and B.) changing old business into new businesses, such as how you distribute your licensed products," he says. "Retail in a brick-and-mortar building used to be the only way for fans to go, and now you can get anything on the Internet in 24 hours."

That isn't the only thing fans have come to expect with immediacy.

"Twenty years ago if there was an incident in a game, you would see a tape a day or two later," Bettman says. "We now have to act and react in real time. (Commissioners) need to be accessible 24/7 and we are. That's part of the scrutiny and transparency that the digital space provides us. That means everyone at the senior level of our organization knows you are never really off. My old joke is that my idea of a vacation is I'm in a different place to make and take phone calls and emails."

Allen and Brady continue at extended and extensive length, and it's certainly interesting to read relatively open commentary from the commissioner who all but polices his owners to ensure that 30 groups with very disparate interests always present a united front.

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: donald+fehr, gary+bettman

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com