Go Packs! The Green Bay Packers play their first regular season game of the year this afternoon. I’m enough of a Packers fan to know this. I am not enough of a fan, however, to watch the game (I’m going to see Iron Man 3 with a friend instead). But I love the Packers, even though I don’t watch a lot of football and I am originally from Minnesota. The Packers have such an impressive legacy and they play outdoors in Green Bay in the winter. As a northern girl, I love that. Plus, it’s great to see one of the original small-town football teams not just survive but thrive in this era of big market, big money, big ego football.
But what I love most about the Packers is the fact that there are 364,122 owners of Packers. And not one Jerry Jones or Jack Kent Cooke (that’s a throwback to my college days in DC) in the bunch. Most people know that the Green Bay Packers are community owned. Even I, with my limited interest in football, knew that. What I didn’t know, however, is how the ownership works or how it started.
On August 18, 1923, the original articles of incorporation for Green Bay Packers Inc. were filed with Wisconsin’s secretary of state. A publicly-owned company, the Packers corporation is nonprofit. The bylaws state that the Packers are “a community project, intended to promote community welfare.”
The shareholders don’t get paid dividends and can’t sell their stock. But they do get to attend the annual shareholder meeting and vote on corporate matters, such as the board of directors. The Packers are governed by a board of directors and a seven-member executive committee. And to prevent a Jerry Jones-type from taking over, the articles of incorporation specifically prohibit any individual from owning more than 200,000 shares. Over the past ninety years there have been 5 stock offerings, with the last one (in 2011) used to raise funds for an expansion of Lambeau Field.
Unfortunately, the NFL will never allow another franchise like the Packers to be created. In 1960, the NFL constitution (I did not know until today that the NFL had its own constitution) was amended to add a Green Bay Rule that provides, “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.” Art. 4, S. 4, NFL Constitution.
Maybe there never could be another Green Bay football team anyway, with today’s billionaires running most of the show. But the public, non-profit structure has created a great relationship between the team and the residents of Green Bay and Wisconsin. We know that the Packers can’t threaten to pack up and leave town. Volunteers work the concessions, with 60% of the proceeds going to local charities (could you imagine that at a San Francisco 49ers game?). And, during snowstorms, volunteers come to shovel the snow off of Lambeau Field (full disclosure – I totally want to do that). No way would anyone – or should anyone – volunteer to help out Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.
Nope, the Packers are awesome, and not just because they’re a good football team. They are truly part of the community and it makes for more dedicated fans and a better team. It may not be a wise financial investment, but if the Packers ever offer up more shares, I will proudly become an owner of the best football franchise in the US!