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Baker Leaving Pro Football Hall of Fame

Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker congratulates new Ford Hall of Fans entrant and super Browns fan Ray Prisby at a Tampa hotel on February 5, 2021. (Courtesy Bleacher Report)

CANTON, OHIO – David Baker, the President & Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since January 2014, has announced he is retiring from the Hall to return to his home, family and business projects in California and Nevada.

Baker has turned over day-to-day business operations. He will continue to represent the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Ring of Excellence Ceremonies honoring members of the Centennial Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 at National Football League stadiums for the remainder of the presentation schedule as the retired President & Executive Director.

“As I approach the end of nearly eight years of service to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for someone else to have the ‘best job in the world’ so I can still do a few more exciting things in my professional life while also returning home to our four children, 10 grandchildren and soon-to-be great grandson in Orange County, California, whom I’ve missed so much during my tenure at ‘The Most Inspiring Place on Earth,’ Baker said.

“Accordingly, effective immediately, I am removing myself from all day-to-day operational responsibilities so my wife, Colleen, and I can begin our move home, but I’ll still be available for ceremonial duties over the coming weeks ahead.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said of Baker: “Few people combine vision, passion and dedication as completely as David Baker. In seven years as president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, David expanded the Hall’s brand nationally and footprint locally in Canton, Ohio. The growth he envisioned led to the expansion of the Hall of Fame, spread to downtown Canton and will continue to have a tremendous impact on the future of the Hall for decades to come.

“His mission to honor and support the heroes of the game will be one of his most lasting and important legacies. We are grateful for David’s many contributions and extend our utmost thanks and best wishes to Colleen and him.”

Jim Porter, 57, the Hall of Fame’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer since April 2020, has been named President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will oversee all daily business operations.

The Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees will continue to discuss the Hall’s management structure, including a determination of who will deliver the news to those elected in future Enshrinement classes and who will serve as host of the annual Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls each summer in Canton that recognizes that year’s esteemed class of enshrinees.

“David Baker lifted the Pro Football Hall of Fame to new heights. He helped make the words ‘Canton’ and ‘Excellence’ synonymous,” said Dennis Nash, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Jim Porter as president along with the next executive director of the Hall step into an organization with a unique place in the game of football and a strong national reputation.”

Porter, a lifelong resident of Stark County, joined the Hall of Fame after 33 years in daily print journalism, the last 6½ as CEO & Publisher of GateHouse Ohio Media. Publications under his direction won numerous Associated Press General Excellence Awards for best newsrooms in Ohio and received many other industry accolades for financial performance, overall quality and customer service. He is a past or current member of several boards of directors in the Canton area, including the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, ArtsinStark and the United Way of Greater Stark County, and he chaired the NFL Centennial Host Committee as the City of Canton prepared to celebrate the league’s 100th birthday.

Under Baker’s leadership, the Pro Football Hall of Fame experienced tremendous operational growth and enjoys a bright future as the centerpiece around which the Hall of Fame Village project is being developed.

Baker, 68, brought a vision for the Hall of Fame that matched his physical stature. It was he who launched the concept for the development of the ambitious Hall of Fame Village project, a for-profit entity distinct from the nonprofit Pro Football Hall of Fame. He regularly cited the Hall of Fame’s powerful Mission – to “Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence EVERYWHERE” – at or near the beginning of every meeting at the Hall of Fame, during every media opportunity and at each public appearance as a reminder of the Hall’s crucial role in Canton and to the game of professional football.

Under Baker, the words “Canton,” “Hall of Fame” and “Excellence” became interchangeable. Broadcasters across the country routinely tell viewers a certain player will “find himself in Canton someday.”

Baker will be remembered in the sports world as the man who introduced “The Knock” as the way of informing eligible Hall of Fame candidates they had been elected. He would rap on the doors of the hotel rooms where that year’s Enshrinement candidates were sequestered – or in the case of the COVID-affected Class of 2021, at their homes or a place of business – and savor the moments as the men and their families realized their lives were changing forever. He would welcome each enshrinee to Canton, thank him for what he had contributed to the game and promise to guard his legacy at the Pro Football Hall of Fame forever.

Under Baker’s tenure, the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

  • Promoted health-related causes for former NFL athletes and their families, an ongoing effort that includes the formation of Hall of Fame Health (January 2020) and Hall of Fame Behavioral Health (May 2021).
  • Expanded programming across the country, especially in the areas of educational outreach for students of all ages.
  • Experienced increased television ratings and an increase in national broadcasts.
  • Received broader exposure of the Hall’s Mission, Values and Vision.
  • Launched the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic to celebrate Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Brought the Black College Hall of Fame to Canton and inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame building.
  • Navigated the Hall safely through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Oversaw the selection of a 20-person Centennial Class of 2020 to commemorate the 100th birthday of the National Football League.
  • Enshrined both the Centennial Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 this past August as Canton led the celebration of “The Greatest Gathering in Football.”

In 2018, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was voted the Best Attraction for Sports Fans in the USA TODAY 10-Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Baker’s accomplishments were recognized when he was bestowed the prestigious March of Dimes Sports Leadership Award for 2017. He joined a long list of distinguished winners of the award that includes former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former NBA Commissioner David Stern, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Baker, an attorney, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Criticism from the University of California at Irvine and his Juris Doctorate from the Pepperdine School of Law, during which time he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Pepperdine Law Review.

He played professional basketball in Switzerland and worldwide with a Christian basketball team that beat some of the best competition in the world. He served a term as mayor and was elected as a councilman in Irvine, Calif., the country’s first master-planned city. He also served for 12 years as Commissioner of the Arena Football League.

From 2009 to 2014, Baker served as the Managing Partner for Union Village, an integrated health village located in Henderson, Nev.

Baker is the father of two boys: Ben, who is the Director of Broadcasting at NASCAR; and Sam, who played left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons and currently serves as a high school football coach. David and his wife, Colleen, also have a daughter, Leyla, and a son, Michael; and they are the proud grandparents of 10 grandchildren.

“I want to expressly thank all the Board of Trustees for their past support and allowing me to serve in this important position for nearly eight years. I shall always and forever be, both literally and figuratively, the Hall’s biggest fan,” Baker said. “It has been an honor to serve the Hall’s noble mission of ‘Celebrating Excellence EVERYWHERE,’ and I want to also thank the management team and staff who comprise the best ‘team’ in the world.

“A special thanks also to our Hall of Famers and Hall of Fame Families, the good people and incredible volunteers of Canton, all of the Hall’s partners and the Commissioner and the National Football League for supporting so much of the progress we were all able to achieve during this time.”


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