David Baker retires as president of Pro Football Hall of Fame

David Baker, a towering presence often clad in suit coats of the brightest colors, has announced his retirement as the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s president and executive director.

Baker, seen by many fans with “the knock” videos as he informed some of the league’s best former players and coaches they were officially Hall of Famers, and the Hall of Fame made the official announcement Saturday. Baker will continue to make appearances to hand out the Hall of Fame rings to members of the Hall’s Centennial Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, but will surrender control over the day-to-day operations of the Hall of Fame.

In Denver this weekend as part of the ceremony for former Broncos safety Steve Atwater – in the Hall’s Class of ’20, Baker was asked about his travel schedule for the ceremonies at an appearance Friday night and said simply “I think it’s time I try to go see my grandchildren.”

Saturday, the 68-year-old formally announced his retirement.

In a statement Baker said: “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’.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, in a statement, that “few people combine vision, passion and dedication as completely as David Baker … 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.”

Baker had received a five-year contract extension as the Hall’s president and CEO in late 2018.

Jim Porter, the Hall of Fame’s chief marketing and communications officer since April 2020, has been named the president of the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame’s board of trustees will also evaluate the Hall’s management structure in the pursuit of a new executive director.

In addition to attempting to raise the profile of the annual announcement of each Hall of Fame class, Baker oversaw the Hall’s expansion that began with the construction of Tom Benson Stadium as well as the start of construction on the Hall of Fame Village, a long-term project that would feature a hotel, an athletic complex for youth sports and a conference center.

However, after the stadium was completed construction was halted in 2018 as companies involved in the project sought to be paid for work that had already been completed. The project was later re-started without Baker leading the development group.

“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 Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees. “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.”

Before he was hired by the Hall of Fame in 2014 Baker, an attorney, had played professional basketball in Switzerland as well as been mayor of Irvine, Calif. He spent 12 years as the commissioner of the Arena Football League.

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