National Lacrosse League commissioner Nick Sakiewicz is stepping down to “pursue other interests,” the NLL said. Deputy commissioner Jessica Berman will serve as Sakiewicz’s interim replacement as details of the selection process for a new commissioner are ironed out.
Sakiewicz took over as commissioner in 2016 after an accomplished career in Major League Soccer. He will continue on in an advisory capacity through June, after the 2021-22 season concludes.
Sakiewicz’s tenure atop the indoor box lacrosse league was marked by significant growth. The NLL expanded from nine to 14 teams across the United States and Canada, with a 15th club set to debut in Las Vegas next season. Sakiewicz, who negotiated the two largest broadcast agreements in the NLL’s 36-year history, leaves the league amid a record multiyear deal with ESPN and TSN that began in December 2021.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Sakiewicz told Sportico at the time that the agreement took “what our rights are worth to a new level.” New sponsors and partners also came on board under the former commissioner’s watch, including e-commerce giant Fanatics, the world’s largest seller of licensed sportswear.
“Through thoughtful and strategic business planning the league expanded with the right investors, embracing the digitally native fan and expanding our media reach now with both ESPN and TSN for the first time in league history, the NLL and the sport of lacrosse on every level, is in a much better place with a brighter future than ever before,” Sakiewicz said in a statement. “My decision to leave now is a personal one. The goals I had set out when I came to the NLL from soccer have been met, and it is time for me to pursue a new, exciting and different global opportunity as my next challenge.”
The league said franchise values have grown 11x from when San Diego played its inaugural season in 2018 to the 2021 sale of the Saskatchewan Rush at what was reportedly a record price. The cost of expansion franchises could continue to climb thanks largely to the league’s growing media business.
All told, the NLL’s revenue has grown 700% over the last five seasons.
“The National Lacrosse League has seen transformative change and is poised for both future growth and success, thanks to Nick’s leadership during the past six years,” said Matt Hutchings, COO and EVP at Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Colorado Mammoth and chairman of the NLL Board of Governors. “Several years ago, we very intentionally empowered Nick to strengthen our management team with the Deputy Commissioner position. Jessica Berman has done a wonderful job in her short time in this role, and the league is in great hands with her and our experienced management team supporting her efforts.”
Berman joined the NLL in 2019 after a lengthy career with the NHL.