Paul Rabil, Premier Lacrosse League co-founder, Cannons LC midfielder and one of the sport’s most influential athletes, is hanging up his cleats after 14 seasons of professional play. The 35-year-old Maryland native announced his retirement Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where this month the PLL will close out its third season.
Rabil, who serves as his league’s chief marketing officer, became professional lacrosse’s all-time scoring champion in his final season of play. But more than his on-field success—which includes a pair of NCAA championships at Johns Hopkins, two Major League Lacrosse titles and three MVP honors—his longest-lasting legacy will likely be his contributions to the sport’s professional development.
When Rabil went No. 1 to Boston in the 2008 MLL collegiate draft, his rookie wage was $6,000. MLL salaries for many years topped out around $25,000, though the average was much lower. Most professional lacrosse players also held desk jobs during the week, and Rabil did the same until early endorsement deals with Under Armour, Red Bull and GoPro made it feasible for him to focus on professional lacrosse full-time. He would go on to become the face of the sport for more than a decade.
As his social media following and list of endorsers grew, so too did his outside business interests. Rabil Ventures, an investment and advisory venture capital firm, started with a portfolio of fitness companies and an events business, but has since expanded with investments in sports, media, financial services, real estate and tech.
Rabil eventually earned the distinction of the sport’s first Million Dollar Man—crossing the seven-figure income threshold. He’d go on to play five seasons in the indoor National Lacrosse League (where salaries average around $15,000, though the highest-paid franchise player in the league makes nearly $34,000) and 11 MLL seasons before eventually leaving the league after the 2018 campaign to launch the single-entity, tour-based Premier Lacrosse League with his brother, Mike.
The arrival of the PLL signaled a major change in professional lacrosse. With higher salaries, new benefits for players, including year-round health care and stock options, the league aspired to create an environment for lacrosse athletes to pursue a true, full-time professional sports career.
Investors included Alibaba co-founder and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai (who also owns the WNBA’s New York Liberty, a National Lacrosse League franchise in San Diego and an expansion team coming to Las Vegas); the Kraft Group, led by Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Arctos Sports Partners; Chernin Group; The Raine Group; Creative Artists Agency (CAA); Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment and Blum Capital.
When the PLL debuted in 2019, in partnership with NBCUniversal, the league said its average player salary was $35,000, or more than four times the $8,000 average in the MLL the previous year. Since launching, the league has added a slew of sponsors, including Ticketmaster, Progressive Insurance and Vineyard Vines, embraced sports betting and announced an exclusive streaming partnership with Peacock this April as part of a three-year agreement with NBC.
In December 2020, the PLL merged with Major League Lacrosse, folding all of the 20-year-old league’s operations into the PLL’s umbrella. Rabil played his final season with the PLL’s second expansion team, the Cannons Lacrosse Club, formerly MLL’s Boston Cannons.
“Although he is retiring from playing, he has not retired from lacrosse,” Tsai said in a statement. “I know that Paul Rabil, the entrepreneur, will make perhaps an even bigger contribution to the business of lacrosse and ultimately growth of our beloved sport for years to come.”
Rabil said he will continue to build the now eight-team PLL as its co-founder and announced a new initiative called Goals for Greatness, where the new retiree has committed to putting lacrosse goals on fields in all 50 states beginning in 2022. Rabil plans to extend Goals for Greatness internationally in 2023 in light of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) granting full recognition of lacrosse’s governing body, a key step toward Olympic inclusion in the future.
“Even as a professional it can be difficult to find a lacrosse field to practice on—I want to change that,” Rabil said. “With lacrosse goals on fields nationwide, the world will soon have that same visual I had growing up, making lacrosse more recognizable, aspirational and accessible.”
The league said Goals for Greatness will begin by working with municipalities and community groups to identify public areas that can benefit from lacrosse goals.