Didn’t learn that the Green Bay Packers are a non-profit entity until this article.
In 1923, the Packers were just another hardscrabble team on the brink of bankruptcy. Rather than fold they decided to sell shares to the community, with fans each throwing down a couple of dollars to keep the team afloat. That humble frozen seed has since blossomed into a situation wherein more than a hundred thousand stockholders own more than four million shares of a perennial playoff contender. Those holding Packers stock are limited to no more than two hundred thousand shares, keeping any individual from gaining control over the club.
Volunteers work concessions, with sixty per cent of the proceeds going to local charities. Even the beer is cheaper than at a typical N.F.L. stadium. Not only has home field been sold out for two decades, but during snowstorms, the team routinely puts out calls for volunteers to help shovel and is never disappointed by the response.
Shareholders receive no dividend check and no free tickets to Lambeau Field. They don’t even get a foam cheesehead. All they get is a piece of paper that says they are part-owners of the Green Bay Packers. They don’t even get a green and gold frame for display purposes.
Why? Because the owners aren’t seeing any return whatsoever. But…
Being an N.F.L. owner is like having a license to print money. Television contracts alone run in the billions, with the 2006-2011 contracts valued at approximately $3 billion annually, $800 million more than the previous contracts.
It’s a beautiful story but it’s one that the N.F.L. and Commissioner Roger Goodell take great pains both to hide and make sure no other locality replicates. It’s actually written in the N.F.L. bylaws that no team can be a non-profit, community owned entity. The late N.F.L. commissioner Pete Rozelle had it written into the league’s constitution in 1960. Article V, Section 4—otherwise known as the Green Bay Rule—states that “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.”
All at the public’s expense:
In addition, N.F.L. teams have received $6 billion in public funds to build the current crop of stadiums. In other words, the public is already shouldering a great deal of the cost and debt for N.F.L. franchises. But these public dollars, through some sort of magic alchemy, morph into private profits that often flow away from the communities that ponied up the dough. In the United States, we socialize the debt of sports and privatize the profits.