While a lot of names for sports teams may seem obvious (named for an impressive animal or something related to the city they’re based in), the name “Packers” may seem like an odd choice for one of the NFL’s most popular franchises. Why are they called the Green Bay Packers in the first place? To find our answer, we have to take a deep dive into NFL history.
Why Are They Called the Green Bay Packers?
Today, we think of football players as multi-millionaires exclusively dedicated to their sport. However, in the early 20th century, football was the domain of blue-collar workers, who often had their own “normal jobs” alongside playing. Keep that in mind when we go back to 1919 and team founder Curly Lambeau. Along with high school football rival George Whitney Calhoun, Lambeau decided the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, needed its own professional football team. However, he also needed funding.
To do this, Lambeau decided to go to the bosses at his day job at the Indian Packing Company, a meatpacking facility, for a donation to get equipment and uniforms for his team. To give you an idea of how times were back then, he only made $250 a month (granted, you have to take inflation into account). The Indian Packing Company agreed, giving him $500 (around $6,000 today) and also allowed Lambeau to use the company football field. In gratitude, Lambeau decided to name the team for his benefactors.
As things turned out, the decision to go with Packers would be a smart one. Indian Packing Company would be brought out by Acme Packing in 1921. As a result, when the team first joined the American Professional Football Association, the jerseys would say “Acme Packers”. In time, this would just become “Packers”.
Who Owns the Green Bay Packers?
One rule that was established early on in the NFL is that while it was okay for a single person or group of people to own a team, corporations would not be allowed to own their own teams. This put the Packers in a bit of a bind, as they were already owned by a corporation. Rather than create a fuss, the NFL opted to grandfather them in while applying the rule to all future teams.
As a result, the Green Bay Packers have the unique ability to offer stock to individuals. In their early days, like 1923, they did this out of necessity to raise money. Nowadays, it’s a point of pride for fans. However, we should mention that this stock doesn’t function like conventional stock. Green Bay “stockholders” get no dividends and no appreciated value. In fact, there aren’t any real practical benefits at all. However, many fans are happy to buy in–it’s a unique way to support a team, and fans get a nice certificate to display in their home.
The Packers and Cheese?
Another unique hallmark you’ll see at Green Bay Packers games is many fans wearing cheese-themed merch, particularly cheese hats and helmets. Just like the Packers name, this may not make a lot of sense at first. However, a big piece of this is due to the fact that the state of Wisconsin is the largest cheese producer in the U.S. So, all the cheese gear is a matter of state pride.
However, when it comes to the story of the ubiquitous cheese helmet, things are a little more interesting. In a 2011 interview with ESPN, Ralph Bruno mentioned how in 1987, he noticed how Chicago news was mocking the Milwaukee Brewers MLB team and calling their fans “cheeseheads.” To try and turn it on its head, he created a cheese hat out of polyurethane and started wearing it to Wisconsin sports events. It caught on the most at Packers games and got so popular Bruno ended up quitting his day job to make cheese hats and other hats, by hand, in his own factory.
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