The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

Goodell, Rockefeller & Tagliabue

Emily Tagliabue & John D. Rockefeller V, 1996
Emily Tagliabue & John D. Rockefeller V, 1996   (AP)


It’s pretty easy for football to get an interested audience in official Washington D.C. Congress folk are no different than anyone else when it comes to love for the game. Some of the politicians played a little college ball, and a few of the elected officials even played in the NFL. Better yet, some of the D.C. decision-makers get paid to pay attention (through campaign contributions) if they are fortunate enough to be sitting on the right committees. But what happens when it’s family? The transcript from the 2011 congressional “Helmet Hearing,” also known as CONCUSSIONS AND THE MARKETING OF SPORTS EQUIPMENT, was conducted by the powerful Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia. Of course, the committee had a few senators that had already received part of the $2.6 million dollars in political campaign contributions distributed by 22 registered lobbyists on behalf of the NFL, but what is so unusual is what the hearing chairman forgot to mention. Sen. Rockefeller’s daughter-in-law is Emily Tagliabue, Paul and Chan Tagliabue’s only daughter.

It’s certainly not a smoking gun that the senator’s son is married to the former* commissioner’s daughter, but it does seem worth a mention. John D. Rockefeller V and Emily Tagliabue were married in 1996, right in the middle of Paul Tagliabue’s 17 year reign as NFL Commissioner. *Though Tagliabue “retired” from the NFL in 2006 he personally continues to receive more than $8 million annually in “deferred compensation” as well as gets to share in the millions of dollars that his law firm Covington and Burling receives each year from the team owners. In addition, the senator and commissioner’s kids got hitched only 2 years after Tagliabue made the seemingly innocuous decision (at the time) to hire Dr. Elliot Pellman to head the NFL’s top concussion research panel, the now infamous MTBI committee. And like Tagliabue, although Pellman resigned from the league’s concussion committee, in 2013 the owners are still paying the University of Guadalajara rheumatologist to share his wisdom about brain injuries. For over 15 years, Tagliabue’s daughter has been married to a United States senator’s son and it never even gets a mention? Not even when the Senator is chairing a hearing and the NFL is at the heart of the matter? Seems it wouldn’t be out of line for Sen. Rockefeller to say something like, “umm . . . oh sure I’m familiar with the NFL, as a matter of fact Tag and I get a chance to chat each year at our granddaughter’s birthday party.”

Clearly, the NFL values being able to bend the ear of individual members of congress. Each year they pay dearly for the privilege. Since at least 1998 (as far back as online records go back) the NFL has spent an escalating amount of money on campaign contributions to help get meetings in Washington. Jeff Miller, the NFL’s first full-time lobbyist hired in 2008, has said:

“The emphasis is to have a full-time person spending every waking moment thinking about how what Congress or the administration is doing is going to affect the NFL’s business model.”

Even Roger Goodell, has family political connections to Washington. Goodell’s dad, Charles was a New York Senator appointed in 1972 by . . . drumroll . . . Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller, appointed Rep. Goodell to the open senate position after Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. Governor (and former Vice-President) Rockefeller was Senator Jay Rockefeller’s uncle. Nelson Rockefeller was chosen as Vice-President in 1974 by Gerald Ford after Richard Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew were forced to resign. It is unknown at this time if Goodell or Tagliabue or their children are related, married to, or friends with any members of the Nixon and Agnew clans.


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