It’s Super Bowl time again. My favorite team made it deep into the playoffs but didn’t quite make it to Big Show this year.
My favorite pro sports team is the Green Bay Packers. It’s not because of what they do on the field or their star players. I’m not even much of a football fan (I’m more into baseball and basketball.)
The Green Bay Packers are awesome because they are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. They are owned by 360,000 shareholders, and no one is allowed to own more than 4% of the shares.
Packers shares are passed on to by family members, and sale of the stock is forbidden. This unique structure ensures that the team remain in Green Bay, Wisconsin despite having the smallest market in North American pro sports. (The city of Green Bay has a population of 104,000 and the metro area has 312,000 residents.)
This means that Green Bay can never be held hostage by a team’s billionaire owner threatening to move the home team to another city in exchange for a more lucrative financing deal. The Green Bay ownership model represents such a threat to the power of wealthy NFL owners that they’ve passed league rules forbidding any such publicly-owned team to exist in the future.
I’m often asked if an up-and-coming city needs a major league professional sports team to signal its arrival as a serious Big City. My answer is no, definitely not. It really doesn’t matter to anyone except a small core of die-hard sports fans. And it will cost the city hundreds of millions, maybe even a billion dollars to win the rights. Soon enough, the billionaire owner will be looking for public funds to keep his (or her) team from moving to the next greener pasture and the home city will pay dearly once again just to keep its home team in place.
These days, cities can ill afford the cost of playing in the big leagues. They should resist the urge, because it just isn’t worth it.