Why I Root for Green Bay

This evening, the Super Bowl XLV Champions emerged victorious in pre-season over the Kansas City Chiefs, and I was listening to every moment on my handy dandy Sirius-XM iPhone app.

I admit, I am brand new to the Packers bandwagon. Previous years, I had tried to like the Washington Redskins, but they make it so damned difficult, from being the last NFL franchise to segregate, to that hideous mascot, to, well, not playing football very well.

Well, with the Packers’ victory last year and being that I occassionally listen to a certain radio talker from those parts, I learned a few things about the team. See the wiki:

The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned franchise in American professional sports major leagues.

Think of that. Not only are the Packers a non-profit, community owned franchise; not only are they the only one in
football. They’re the only one in all of American sports. All other sports are in some way corporately owned. Green Bay is unique in that sense.

Oh, and yes. That fact has helped the team maintain some loyalty. As a guy who grew up in Cleveland and who was in the D.C. metropolitan area when the Baltimore Colts left town, I can appreciate the following fact:

Typically, a team is owned by one person, partnership, or corporate entity, i.e., a “team owner.” The lack of a dominant owner has been stated as one of the reasons the Green Bay Packers have never been moved from the city of Green Bay, a city of only 102,313 people as of the 2000 census.

Interesting. So when a team can’t be bought off by another city offering ridiculous tax abatements and bonds and such, they tend to stay. Please, Wiki. Tell me more.

By comparison, the typical NFL city has a population in the millions or higher hundred-thousands. The Packers, however, have long had a large following throughout Wisconsin and parts of the Midwest; in fact, for decades, the Packers played four (one pre-season, three regular-season) home games each year in Milwaukee, first at the State Fair Park fairgrounds, then at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Packers did not move their entire home schedule to Green Bay until 1995. County Stadium’s replacement, Miller Park, then being planned, was always intended to be a baseball-only stadium instead of a multipurpose stadium.

Loyalty, George Brett style. I like that. So, what would happen if by some odd chance the Packers were sold?

Based on the original “Articles of Incorporation for the (then) Green Bay Football Corporation” put into place in 1923, if the Packers franchise were to have been sold, after the payment of all expenses, any remaining money would go to the Sullivan Post of the American Legion in order to build “a proper soldier’s memorial.” This stipulation was enacted to ensure the club remained in Green Bay and that there could never be any financial enhancement for the shareholders. At the November 1997 annual meeting, shareholders voted to change the beneficiary from the Sullivan-Wallen Post to the Green Bay Packers Foundation, which makes donations to many charities and institutions throughout Wisconsin.

Sounds like apple pie to me.

In 1950, the Packers held a stock sale to again raise money to support the team. In 1956, area voters approved the construction of a new city owned stadium. As with its predecessor, the new field was named City Stadium, but after the death of founder Curly Lambeau, the stadium was renamed Lambeau Field on September 11, 1965.

Naming rights shcmaming rights. It’s still Lambeau field.

Another stock sale occurred late in 1997 and early in 1998. It added 105,989 new shareholders and raised over $24 million, money used for the Lambeau Field redevelopment project. Priced at $200 per share, fans bought 120,010 shares during the 17-week sale, which ended March 16, 1998. As of June 8, 2005, 112,015 people (representing 4,750,934 shares) can lay claim to a franchise ownership interest. Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value (though private sales often exceed the face value of the stock), and stock ownership brings no season ticket privileges. No shareholder may own over 200,000 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no individual can assume control of the club. To run the corporation, a board of directors is elected by the stockholders.

How do you NOT root for this team? IT IS A FRICKIN’ DEMOCRACY!

Not to mention, ladies and gentlemen, among the shareholders of the Green Bay Packers is one Barack H. Obama, who was presented shares by the team after they defeated his beloved Bears to take the Lombardi trophy.

So yeah. I’m new to the party, post-Favre new, even. But I’m going to own one of those goofy cheese hats before the season is through.

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