All but one team in the NFL is owned by 31 people. Their characters range from deplorable to commendable and their life stories range from inspiring to rage-inducing. The 32nd team is owned by 361,169 people. Their identities and stories share the same breadth and depth. The difference between the 31 owners of every other team and the shareholders of the Green Bay Packers is that the deficiencies of the owners can trickle down to affect players, fans, and entire cities.
The Green Bay Packers organization has been publicly owned since its inception in 1923. Decisions are made by vote, like any other public company, and proceeds from the franchise go to improving its storied stadium, Lambeau Field. While teams around the league have suffered from ownership disputes, issues over stadium construction, and traumatic moves between cities, the Packers have had no such controversies.
Let’s take a look at some other league owners. Dean Spanos of the Chargers attempted to extort the city of San Diego for a new stadium, then left for Los Angeles when the city refused (he is not the first owner to do this). Stan Kroenke of the LA Rams has done his fair share of damage to the world. Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, has been accused of sexually exploiting cheerleaders. What about former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo, who was forced to sell the team after being convicted of corruption in a federal case? Or the Patriots’ Robert Kraft, who seems likely to slip away from charges related to soliciting prostitution?
The list goes on.
Sure, some owners have contributed positively to the sport, their franchise, or their city. Al Davis allowed the Raiders to create a bad boy reputation that united Oakland. Art Model pushed the TV deals that brought us Sunday and Monday Night Football. Robert Kraft has allowed Bill Bellicheck and Tom Brady to establish one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.
But how many players developed brain damage from the style of football Davis championed? Model is guilty of the same extortion as Spanos. And Kraft’s flaws need no restating. The frequency with which owners abuse their power in ways that bring harm to individuals and communities is appalling.
Why do these 31 people get to decide the fate of these organizations that are so important to people and economies in this country?
I know from personal experience how much football can matter. The Saints helped New Orleans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As a resident of the city at the time, I will always be grateful to Tom Benson for not moving the team when it would have made an incredible amount of sense from a business perspective.
But it was Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and the rest of the Saints’ roster and coaching staff who inspired my city, and no Packers fan has ever worried about their team leaving Green Bay.