The Loop

Stonks

We regret to inform you that Green Bay Packers "stock" is a scam

November 18, 2021

Patrick McDermott

Every once in a while, somebody will go viral for posting a GoFundMe for some ridiculously dubious "goal," like taking a vacation. In the most extreme cases, it will be clear that they have money of their own, but simply prefer not to spend it. Tied in with all this is a certain entitlement—they feel they deserve that trip, which makes them shameless enough to ask for it. This kind of social conduct would be offensive even in a vacuum, but when you consider that the rest of GoFundMe is used for things like getting individuals out from under crushing medical debt, it becomes especially crass. We judge them harshly.

Now, imagine if you will that this person who wants to go to Hawaii makes you an offer: For $300, they will send you a certificate of ownership that confers absolutely no benefits beyond the piece of paper itself. Now, imagine that this person is a football team from Wisconsin.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the "public ownership" of the Green Bay Packers.

For the sixth time in franchise history, the Packers are offering shares of the team at $300 a pop, with the money to be used for facilities upgrades (by rule, they can't use it for player salaries or operations). If you know anything about football, you know that the Packers are the only publicly owned franchise in major American sports, and this tradition of offering shares to the public began in 1923, when it was necessary to keep a football team in Green Bay. That's a good and noble history, and it resulted in the team being run by an executive committee serving above a board of directors, rather than the typical model of a single owner or company controlling a franchise. It has paid dividends, and virtually guaranteed that the Packers will never leave the city. Fair enough.

But today? Today, the Packers are a massively profitable NFL team in an ecosystem where every team receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year in a revenue sharing agreement, plus the profits they generate on their own, which are substantial. Even with all the expenses involved in running a football team, the Packers have a reserve fund worth almost $400 million. In short, they are rolling in it.

That puts a whole new spin on the idea of asking for donations, especially when the request hearkens back to the romance of 100 years ago, when they truly needed the community to survive. The Packers are a special franchise, and obviously having them around has positive benefits for the people of Green Bay, but at this point the "publicly owned" concept is bereft even of the original romanticism. Today, when they offer 300,000 shares at $300 apiece—shares which have no equity, pay no dividends, come with no ticket rights, and offer nothing more than an invite to an annual shareholders' meeting and "voting rights" which are actually not shared by everyone. As the ESPN story noted, it's basically a worthless piece of paper.

However, people really, really want this piece of paper, and they want it because of the status. "Owning" part of the Green Bay Packers comes with its own historical weight, and people want it for the same reasons they want to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

What's actually happening in 2021 is that a mega-rich corporation (yes, it's a corporation in all but name) which rakes in money under the umbrella of an even more mega-rich corporation is asking for a donation from fans to buy a new video screen, or something.

Which is fine! Just ask for a donation! But to couch it in terms of public ownership is worse than nonsense—it is, at the very least, scam-adjacent. It's Tom Sawyer getting all his friends to paint his fence because he convinces them that painting fences is awesome. It's a con, and what makes it more egregious is that they can afford this stuff all on their own.

If your average NFL or NBA or MLB team asked its fans for donations, they'd rightly be laughed out of the room—imagine sending James Dolan and Cablevision $300 because you're a Knicks fan. The Packers get away with it because they've managed to brand it extremely well, but that doesn't make it any less weird for them to take people's money under the guise of public ownership.

If average people want to give their money to a professional sports team outside of the usual ticket and merchandise sales, that's all well and good. There are dumber ways to spend $300 (or more). But what the Packers are offering today feels like a manipulation based on a history that is no longer relevant. Don't send the spoiled GoFundMe brat to Hawaii, even if he gives you a fancy piece of paper—save your cash and make him pay his own way. We guarantee you he can afford it.