The Packers’ latest stock offering includes broad language that prohibits every shareholder from criticizing any NFL team, the management of any NFL team, the employees or coaches of any NFL team, or any football officials employed by the NFL. Punishment for a violation includes, according to the document, a fine from the Commissioner of up to $500,000, along with a requirement that the shareholder sell his or her stock.
Given that the stock purchase constitutes a $300 donation that comes with a piece of paper (along with a $35 handling fee), it seems odd that the gift would have such a potentially expensive string attached to it. So we asked the Packers why the language is in the offering document, whether it has been in prior offering documents, and whether the provision ever has been enforced.
According to the team, it’s included in the document because it’s standard language that applies to all NFL owners, whether the owners are actual owners or simply fans who have decide to pay $300 for the privilege of telling themselves that they are owners, even if they ultimately own a minuscule portion of the team — and even if that ownership stake can’t be sold.
The language has appeared in the most recent two offerings prior to this one, in 1997 and 2011. The language has never been enforced as to any Packers owner.
Although it’s highly unlikely that the Commissioner would ever take action against a Packers shareholder beyond rescinding his or her shares, the language remains in the document. The league has the contractual power to enforce the language, if the league decides to do so.
And if the league was ever going to try to do it, it would try to do it to a known agitator who bought the stock fully aware of the obligations and consequences. So, yeah, I’ll probably still buy a share.