1 NFL Team Is the Only Publicly-Owned Nonprofit Sports Franchise in the U.S.

A professional sports team owned by the public as a nonprofit; that’s unheard of in the American sports scene, whether in the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB. The NFL is particularly stern about that, considering its constitution specifies that no charitable organization can hold membership in the league. 

However, there’s one exception – The Green Bay Packers. It’s a pretty unique and sweet story for the Wisconsin-based NFL team, which has been the only publicly-owned sports franchise in the league since the 1920s when the game was still in its primitive days. It’s also an incentive to the Cheesehead fans as they don’t have to worry about a stubborn owner threatening to relocate the team to another more competitive state. 

What does it mean for an NFL team to be nonprofit and community-managed?

A Green Bay Packers owner during 2021 training camp at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin
A Green Bay Packers owner | Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Like AMIBA, a publicly-owned team or organization is a nonprofit owned by the local community in which it operates. In simple terms, the team is owned by the fans. Therefore, no single individual, partnership, or corporate entity can be a major shareholder. Each stockholder can only own a limited number of shares to prevent sole ownership. 

It’s the same ownership structure as the Green Bay Packers. The NFL team has been community-managed since 1923. It’s a move that redeemed the team from imminent bankruptcy to become one of the NFL’s most successful, longest-standing teams. It boasts five Super Bowl appearances and four wins and produces decorated MVPs.

Wisconsin-fans enjoy a warm relationship with the team, as they need not worry about an owner threatening to move the Packers to Los Angeles or elsewhere for financial gains. Volunteers work concessions, and, being a nonprofit, 60% of the proceeds go to charity.

Understanding the ownership structure of the Green Bay Packers

Fan Buzz cites that Green Bay Packers is owned by Green Bay Packers, Inc., a fan-owned nonprofit organization. The Packers sold shares to the local community to keep the team going. It’s the only publicly-owned pro team in America, exempted from Article V (Section 4) of the league’s constitution that bars any charitable organization from owning a team.

According to The Sun, Green Bay Packers stockholders elect a board of directors and an executive committee to represent the community. The team’s current president is Mark Murphy, who represents the team at NFL owners’ meetings. Nonetheless, the major decisions are made by General Manager Brian Gutekunst, the luckiest GM in the league, as he doesn’t have to worry about job security. 

The New Yorker highlighted that shareholders receive no dividend checks. They neither get complimentary tickets to Lambeau Field or the fan-favorite cheesehead foam. Surprisingly, they can’t even get a green and gold frame recognizing them as owners. Instead, they get a paper indicating they are part-owners of the team. Only the president is paid.

How many people own the Green Bay Packers?

The Green Bay Packers is owned by 537,000 stakeholders. Each owner is not allowed to own more than 200,000 of the total 5,011,557 shares – about a 4% stake in the team’s ownership. Green Bay Packers Inc. held its sixth stock, which ended in February 2022, adding over 170,000 shareholders. Each share sold for $300, thanks to the team’s excellent performance in recent years. 

The shareholders are involved in the decision-making processes at the top-level management. As noted on the website Packers, the board gave the community a chance to present four shareholders to join the board in the upcoming Annual General Meeting on July 25, 2022. The candidates were approved by a vote of the nonprofit’s board during the quarterly meeting on May 11.

For fans in the U.S whose teams are threatening to move to other cities or states, it’s understandable to look at the Green Bay Packers and say, “Why can’t we own our NFL team?” In this age, that’s virtually impossible because of NFL laws. Owning a team is also costly, so such a pursuit would require deep pockets. 

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