As the NFL continues to grow, it’s presence in Green Bay becomes more unique. The small-market, publicly-owned team has thrived on the field for much of the last two decades, even as the sport has exploded to new levels of revenue and sophistication.
But the balance between a community feel and a corporate attitude can be difficult to strike, as Pete Dougherty and Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette write in an new article that explores the manner in which recent changes to the organization could affect its long-standing ties to the city and the people who live there.
“[I]n the arms race for revenue, the Packers must remain rooted in the small community that spawned the team and has kept it alive through sometimes dire financial times for the last 93 years,” Dougherty and Demovsky write.
An eventual disconnect between the team and the community could have dire consequences. One unnamed source tells Dougherty and Demovsky that, if a local stadium referendum had failed in 2000, the Packers would have moved by now. “If you don’t have the right players on the board and in management, there aren’t going to be an awful lot of people that will work to save [the team],” the source said.
That seems like a bit of a stretch. With a season-ticket waiting list that extends for decades, the public in Green Bay will vote in favor of whatever needs to be done to help the team survive, and thrive, in the only hometown its ever known.
As to the tension between the community and the front office, which given the recent resignation of Jason Weid doesn’t have a Wisconsin native in one of the top two jobs with the organization, Dougherty and Demovsky point to the relationship between the team and its Hall of Fame, an independent body run by local cirizens. When the team recently suggested taking over the Hall of Fame, its executive committee and board of directors were reportedly “outraged.”
“The franchise has to be careful it doesn’t get too big and think, ‘We don’t need people,’” an NFL source with ties to the Packers said. “If they lose sight of that and think everything’s hunky-dory here and [think] ‘We don’t have to worry about that,’ that’s an enormous mistake. [There’s been] a connection with this team and community literally from Day 1 in 1919, and there’s not another community-team relationship like this in any sport. Not just the National Football League, in any sport. That’s to be treasured and is part of the unique tradition, and has to be honored.”
But the reality is that folks in Green Bay ultimately want to see the team win. Though there may be grumbling (especially when the team isn’t winning, which doesn’t happen all that often anymore), the fans ultimately will defer to the folks who run the team. At some point there could be a grassroots effort to hire new management, but the fans never will turn their back on the franchise.
And for that reason the franchise will continue to compete, even as the dollars get bigger and the business concepts become more convoluted.