The best town in pro sports is also the smallest: Green Bay, Wisconsin, home of the Packers. The Dallas Cowboys aren’t America’s team, the Green Bay Packers are. And not just because of their championship history. The Packers are owned by the fans, not a wealthy owner operating with a profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) philosophy. The Green Bay Packers are a publicly-owned non-profit with a unique stock ownership structure. Green Bay’s bylaws state that the Packers are “a community project, intended to promote community welfare.” What a refreshing approach.
“It makes them an example,” according to ESPN’s Patrick Hruby. “A case study. A working model for a better way to organize and administer pro sports.”
The Packers have sold out more than 300 consecutive home games and have more than 80,000 names on their season-ticket waiting list. Despite being one of the most successful teams on the field, the Packers’ ticket prices are among the lowest in the league. Unlike other NFL stadiums that have advertisements everywhere the eyes can see, Lambeau Field is relatively free of corporate sales pitches. The only ads you see are on the scoreboard. As a whole, the stadium provides today’s fans a similar view to what fans saw in the ’60’s.
(See “The Green Bay Packers Have the Best Owners in Football“).
“We’re owned by this community,” says Packers’ CEO Mark Murphy, a former NFL player and players’ union leader. “We can’t be perceived as gouging the fans.”
Unfortunately, the Packers’ ownership structure can’t be duplicated.
The National Football League (NFL) has formally banned any more Green Bay Packers-type ownership structures. Former commissioner Pete Rozelle changed the NFL constitution in 1960 to prevent another franchise from going to the Green Bay model. Article V, Section 4 of the NFL constitution, the “Green Bay Rule,” says 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.”
That’s a shame. The Green Bay system works beautifully, and ideally would be the norm in all pro sports leagues. It shouldn’t be mandated, but it should be allowed as an option.
“We could probably double home game revenue if we charged New England Patriot prices, but we have to think of our blue-collar base,” says Jason Wied, Green Bay’s vice president of administration and general counsel. “From time to time we make decisions that may not be in our best interest but are in the best interests of the community.”
Even former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue appreciates the Green Bay model, calling Green Bay’s approach “moral purity or economic objectivity. Whatever it is, it is useful.”
“The fundamental problem in pro sports is that we’ve given free reign to owners through a self-regulated monopoly system — including anti-trust exemptions — which allows owners to pursue a profit-at-all-costs agenda at the expense of fans,” says League of Fans founder, Ralph Nader. “This system has resulted in owners playing one city off 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 an optional mainstay of sports policy in this country.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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