I initially wrote this during Super Bowl weekend.
I thought in light of the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick, the associated collusion that comes with it as well as the denial of the long-term impacts of concussions, lack of accountability in extra-judicial punishment of players and a litany of other major problems with the NFL owners and their mouthpiece Roger “I’m not a football expert” Goodell that it might be worth sharing again in order to celebrate the only ownership group in the NFL -and in fact almost all of North American sports – that doesn’t consist solely of capitalist pigs feeding off the blood of the people.
This is not a homer piece.
Sorry to disappoint all the cheeseheads who probably came here because of the title but I am not a Packers fan.
In fact my favourite football team is the Cleveland Browns. That’s the right the biggest dumpster fire in football.
Growing up I actually couldn’t stand the Packers. I always thought that Brett Favre and his constant red zone picks were super overrated. Seriously if you made a DVD box set of Favre’s career, one disc would have to be dedicated to just awful picks he threw in the red zone in the fourth quarter. Packers fans revere him as a god, but he wasn’t anywhere close to the best QB in his era – well the era he peaked in anyway considering that he hung on waaaay too long.
Favre just never seemed as good to me growing up as Troy Aikman, who was winning Super Bowls in Dallas, or Steve Young, who could beat you with his feet as well as he could with his hands in the exciting west coast offense with the 49ers. I would take those guys any day over Wrangler Jeans.
This is probably where I should put a dick pic joke, but those have been done to death.
Don’t worry though, Packers fans. I feel the exact opposite about Aaron Rodgers with his California roots and the fact the he plays like he was dreamed up by the late, great Bill Walsh. He’s has his struggles the last few years, but when he’s one, there’s few better in the league.
But this article isn’t about football in the on field sense.
I am absolutely not crowning the Packers for anything they did on the field of play. I am well aware of the fact that they got destroyed by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game and their season ended two weeks ago.
My focus instead is entirely off the field.
The Packers, to me, are the champions of the NFL entirely because of the way they’re run off the field. Because of their ownership structure or rather lack thereof.
You see, the Green Bay Packers are owned entirely by their community. They have been since 1923.
The 360,584 shareholders of Green Bay Packers Incorporated don’t draw a dime of profit from their shares and cannot sell, assign or transfer a share to a third party. Nobody can hold more than 200,00 which is approximately 4% of the 5.011,557 shares that make up the team. There is no money to be made in being one of the owners of the tenth most valuable team in the NFL.
The Packers are worth an astounding $1.95 billion and not one of its owners will ever see a share of that.
And they don’t care. The team is entirely a nonprofit enterprise. Green Bay’s own by-laws state that the Packers exist as “a community project, intended to promote community welfare”.
It’s this model that allows the Packers to boast some of the lowest ticket prices in the NFL while constantly being in the top ten in league merchandise sales.
It’s also why corporate logos and advertising and Lambeau Field are limited to the scoreboard display. Going to a Packers game is like taking a time machine back to the 1960s in that sense. You are not hammered with billboards posters and ads everywhere you look and there is no danger of Lambeau being re-branded after a corporation like so many other NFL stadiums (seriously the last Bills game I attended took place at New Era Field, peace out Ralph Wilson).
Seriously, Packers fans will never have to suffer the indignity of watching their squad take to the field of AT&T Stadium, Bank of America Stadium, CenturyLink Field, EverBank Field, FedEx Field, Ford Field, Gillette Stadium, Hard Rock Stadium, Heinz Field, Levi’s Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, MetLife Stadium, the aforementioned New Era Field, Nissan Stadium, NRG Stadium, StubHub Center, Sports Authority Field, US Bank Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium or in the case of my Browns FirstEnergy Stadium.
Seriously, corporate naming rights are the one of the worst things in sports. All sports. In Canada, we used to marvel at Habs-Leafs match-ups at the fabulous Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens. Now they match up at Bell Centre and Air Canada Centre. Awful.
Another thing Packers fans will never have to deal with is seeing their community held hostage for stadium financing.
Minnesota tax payers are on the hook for $678 million plus interest for the privilege of watching the Vikings fail to capitalize on yet anther promising young roster after owner Zygi Wilf threatened to move the 54 year old franchise to Los Angeles.
The people of St. Louis saw the Rams bolt back to LA after the community scoffed at owner Stan Kroenke’s ransom demands.
Jerry Jones conned the people of Dallas and the surrounding county into donating $444 million dollars (37% of total costs) to the monstrosity commonly referred to as “Jerry World”. Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco was covered by the public to the tune of $114 million or 12% of all costs. University of Phoenix Stadium (ironic because the university itself exists as an online construct) saw 68% of its costs covered by the state of Arizona to the tune of $308 million. The biggest con job of all was done by noted pillhead Jim Irsay who got a whopping 86% of Lucas Oil Stadium paid for by the public to the tune of $619.8 million which was the largest sum of all until Wilf held the state of Minnesota.
Taxpayers cover roughly 78% of new stadium construction projects while the NFL takes in $13 billion a year in profits and most team owners maintain private revenue streams.
Public financing isn’t limited to the NFL either. Citizens of Atlanta and Cobb County gave $597 million – including $300 million from property taxes that should be going to things like building schools and maintaining roads – to construct the new $1.4 billion SunTrust Park for the Braves. The city of Glendale entered into a 15-year, $225 million arena management deal with the Arizona Coyotes which have been a black-hole of attendance and profit for the community. This came after giving $180 million of public money to build the arena. The new Bucks ownership threatened to move the team out of Milwaukee if the public didn’t pony up $250 million plus $170 million in interest for a new arena. Even in the MLS, DC United extorted $300 million out of Washington for its new digs.
Sports arena financing is crony capitalism at its worst. These owners are worth billions. They don’t need to line their pockets with taxpayer money. But false promises of resulting economic boosts and spin-off profits bamboozle public officials into turning public funds into private profit.
Even my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario isn’t immune from this game. The mayor and many city councillors are trying to hustle the taxpayers there into footing the bill for a new arena or “events centre”. Initially it was the promise of an AHL team and now it’s simply empty rhetoric like “if you build it they will come” because the powers that be apparently can’t get on their knees fast enough for a multimillionaire with a semi-pro hockey team.
Yes they will come alright. They will come and turn your publicly funded arena into a mechanism for private profit and then move the team when attendance drops. Thunder Bay has done that dance so many times before.
Thankfully the old hometown has been smarter than to get sucked into that game again. So far anyway.
The city I come from has a population of 109,000. Green Bay is even smaller at just under 105,000 and yet supports a team in the NFL.
The Packers will never be moved. Some asshole owner will never threaten to move it and nobody will ever extort millions out of Green Bay in an arena financing deal, because the community owns the team and it exists as a project for the good of the community.
Green Bay becomes an easy team to pull for because the owners are just regular folk. They will never have to face the embarrassment of an overt racist like Washington Racial Slurs owner Dan Snyder, the ridiculousness of a Jerry Jones, the proud supporter of the current US President – Robert Kraft or the rogue’s gallery that makes up the ownership of the NFL. Even the owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslam, was implicated in the Pilot Flying J fraud scheme. I think it’s probably time for a new favourite team.
It’s really too bad that for the sake of every community a similar ownership structure couldn’t be adopted.
But the NFL outlawed the public ownership model in 1960 when then commissioner Pete Rozelle instituted what is commonly referred to as “The Green Bay Rule” which is Article V, Section 4 of the NFL constitution which states “charitable organizations and/or corporations not organized for profit and not now a member of the league may not hold membership in the National Football League.” This league legislation ensured that no team could duplicate the Packers public ownership model and set the NFL down the path the created the corporate monolith that it is today.
Full disclosure, I am extremely radical in my politics. I’ve been called a far leftist, a Communist, a Marxist, a socialist, an anarchist and all other kinds of terms. I think they’ve all been true at one point of time or another as I continue to evolve and refine my approaches. So, for me, a sports franchise that is publicly owned and mandated to serve the good of the community it exists in is something that gets me excited.
See I often feel guilty for liking sports as much as I do because it is so corporate and in many ways is pushed by corporate controlled media as a means of distraction from other, pressing issues. Although, I do envision sports as reflecting our wider societal values and as an excellent framing device to discuss important political and social issues, it does help to validate and ease some of the tension I feel when being engrossed in a sporting event that an ownership structure like that of the Green Bay Packers exists.
Even though the NFL has outlawed it, the structure is there and it’s successful to the point that a community with barely more than 100,000 people gets a piece of North America’s most popular professional sports league. The NFL exists mainly as an altar to the corporate dominance of the United States but not so in that small Wisconsin town.
It allows us to imagine a world of possibilities where one day we push back against the NFL and other professional leagues and push for community ownership of every sports franchise in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc.
Publicly owned teams exist in other parts of the world. The most prominent example being Real Madrid which a Harvard University study once concluded was one of the 20 most recognizable brand names in the world. Real Madrid is second only to Manchester United in revenue generated by soccer clubs.
In Sweden every sports club is owned by its membership.
The Canadian Football League boasts three community owned members: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Eskimos. Although your mileage may vary on how much you consider the CFL to be a major North American sports franchise.
Still the fact remains that public ownership is possible and the Green Bay Packers are the most prominent example of that in North America. They provide a vital and refreshing alternative to the often vile billionaires who dominate sports on this continent. It’s very easy to pull for a team when it’s success brings good things to an entire community of people rather than just lining the pockets of some old rich guy.
So when you’re watching the Super Bowl tonight, keep this is mind: regardless of who wins between the Patriots and the Falcons, Robert Kraft will still have a personal fortune of over $5 billion while Arthur Blank gets by on a net worth of just over $3 billion. The Patriots and Falcons exist just to add to those fortunes.
Also keep in mind that Blank’s The Home Depot has been waging war on locally owned hardware stores since its inception in 1978 and that Robert Kraft’s The Kraft group counts among his holdings International Forest Products which will stand to gain tremendously if his close personal friend, the current President of the United States/former reality TV star/failed businessman/small-handed racist piece of shit (still not saying his name) dismantled the Environmental Protection Agency.
When the Packers play, an entire community wins. Nobody’s multinational corporation gains. You won’t need to be made sick to your stomach by the owner of the team cozying up to the racist bigot in The White House.
Longtime consumer advocate and activist Ralph Nader summed it up best when he spoke of the Packers as part of his sports reform project League of Fans:
“The fundamental problem in pro sports is that we’ve given reign to owners through a self-regulated monopoly system – involving anti-trust exemptions – which allows owners to pursue a profit-at-all-costs agenda at the expense of fans. The system has resulted in owners playing one city of another in the quest for new taxpayer funded stadiums and other freeloading. A community ownership model, like the Green Bay Packers’ works. It’s a better way to structure and administer professional sports. It should become and optional mainstay of sports policy in this country.”
The Packers stand as a community project for the common good in a league that is a monument to American corporate greed and the value of profits over people. Their very existence gives us hope that the sports we love can be changed into something resembling the Green Bay model than the same old greed that personifies the ownership of the two teams facing off for the Super Bowl today.
No matter what team wins the Lombardi trophy, the Green Bay Packers will always be the champions of the NFL.