During his 30 years as commissioner of the National Football League, Pete Rozelle was recognized as the premier commissioner of all professional sports. A charismatic leader, he guided the league through a period of unprecedented growth. Rozelle was the 33-year-old general manager of the Los Angeles Rams when he left for the annual NFL meetings in January, 1960.
The principal business was to name a new commissioner to replace the popular Bert Bell, who had died three months earlier. After 23 ballots had failed to produce a new leader, two owners asked Rozelle to leave the meeting room while they and the other owners had a discussion. After a couple of hours, Pete was invited back to the meeting to hear the news that he was the NFL’s new leader.
Rozelle's accomplishments are legendary, and the NFL’s many challenges during his tenure are well documented. Such things as blockbuster television contracts, the war with the competing American Football League and the resulting merger, the development of the Super Bowl into America’s premier sporting event, difficult player issues including strikes and threatened strikes, plus numerous court and legislative battles, all dominated headlines during his stewardship.
Throughout it all, Rozelle remained a dominating factor. His leadership created the profound image of stability and integrity still associated with the NFL. He continually encouraged the club owners to work together despite numerous challenges, while always demonstrating a calm, reassuring, strong management style. It was Rozelle who convinced NFL owners to share equally their television revenues.
A former University of San Francisco sports information director, Rozelle first joined the Los Angeles Rams as public relations director. He later worked as a public relations specialist at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and then returned to the Rams for a three-year tenure as general manager, before his election to the NFL Commissioner’s post.