CANTON, Ohio — Canton's Pro Football Hall of Fame will be under new leadership.
David Baker, who has served as president and executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since January 2014, announced on Saturday that he is retiring from the Hall to return to his home, family and business projects in California and Nevada.
Jim Porter, who has served as the Hall of Fame’s chief marketing and communications officer since April 2020, has been named president and will oversee all daily business operations.
Baker released the following statement:
"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.'"
During his tenure, Baker oversaw a significant expansion and renovation of the museum and neighboring football stadium (now named after former New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson), which were both part of the larger "Hall of Fame Village" project. Rich Desrosiers, vice president of communications and ublic relations at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, says Baker "elevated the Hall's profile nationally" as well as locally.
"We're thankful for that and we want to keep that going," Desrosiers told 3News.
However, construction of the remainder of the village ran into numerous delays and cost concerns, leading to criticism of Baker and an eventual leadership shakeup of those who were running the operations. Some have wondered if that played a role in Baker's rather abrupt departure, but Desrosiers dismissed such rumors.
"Any of the negative reporting that has been out there on social media in the last 48 hours or so [is] all unsourced, all unsubstantiated and throwing things at the wall that just aren't going to stick," he said, adding Baker was considering stepping down in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which postponed virtually all of the Hall's festivities until 2021.
Prior to his arrival in Canton, Baker served as the Mayor of Irvine, California (leaving politics after a conviction for forgery), and later Commissioner of the Arena Football League. The 68-year-old 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 and executive director.
Said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
"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."
Baker's replacement, Porter, is a lifelong Stark County resident who was previously publisher of both the Akron Beacon Journal and Canton Repository. He had been serving as member of the Hall of Fame's board of trustees, and most recently chaired the NFL Centennial Host Committee as the City of Canton prepared to celebrate the league's 100th birthday.
"He's got a lot of ideas on how we can engage the public," Desrosiers said. "He's going to work closely with the village and see that project continue to take shape. It's going to be a huge badge of honor for him to take it to the next level."
The board 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.