As the second-in-command for the country’s most popular professional sports league, Troy Vincent ranks behind only Commissioner Roger Goodell in leading the NFL. No former player has ever risen higher in the league office. With Super Bowl Sunday on the horizon, the NFL is coming off a season in which viewership reached a three-year high despite declines in youth participation and lingering questions about how the league handles instances of domestic violence. Vincent, a five-time Pro Bowler, looks to respond to those concerns while also overseeing officiating and a wide portfolio of interests for the New York-based league.
What does your job entail?
My role is to protect the integrity and competitive fairness of professional football: officiating, playing rules, policy adjustments, club and college relations, youth and high school participation. I oversee our player outreach, past, present and future. And I have oversight over diversity and inclusion efforts.
You often are called on to explain controversial calls to the media after games. Are the rules updated more often now than when you were playing?
They’ve evolved, as they were evolving when I was a player. We analyze 50,000 plays a year to make sure that we are preserving the game, evolving and taking away unnecessary things. That keeps the sport fresh.
You’ve become a leader on the issue of domestic violence through your Love Thy Neighbor nonprofit, which you run with your wife, Tommi. Has the NFL made the progress it needs in addressing abuse?
I think we played our part as an employer. Violence against women and young girls and boys is our issue, your issue. The NFL has taken steps inside of our policies, education and outreach across the league. Have we made progress? Yes. But there’s been a war on women for centuries. We play one small, significant role, but we need everybody in this fight.
Youth participation in football is trending downward. Does that concern the league?
I don’t want to say it’s concerning, but we obviously want to preserve the game. We want to encourage parents to allow or at least think about football. But where high school tackle football has declined a tad bit, we’ve seen tremendous growth with flag football—in particular, women’s flag football.
How does the NFL address concerns about the safety of the game?
In a host of ways, from legislation to less contact at the high school level, rule adjustments and better coaching certifications. We’re ahead of other sports in instituting best practices as well as the investment that we’re making in technology and equipment.
The NFL launched an “experience” store in Times Square last year that quickly closed. Would the league try to launch another?
Absolutely. It is just a matter of where. Times Square was prime real estate, yet it didn’t have the foot traffic that we thought it would have. But we are always thinking about innovative ways to reach fans and the general public.
Could the Super Bowl come back to the New York City area in the next decade?
I’m sure it could. I mean, we’re talking about New York: the media mecca.