the trust

words: sam eifling
photography: daniel arnold

The Green Bay Packers play in a relatively tiny NFL city: population 104,000, three-quarters of which could sit in Lambeau Field on game days. Most of those close-knit fans also own the team. Valued around $2 billion now, they first sold shares 93 years ago as a cash infusion to stay afloat. As a result, Packers fans know their team won't ever follow the Raiders, Browns, Oilers, and other NFL franchises that abandoned their home cities. The only dividend the stock pays is in that certitude. Wisconsin-native Daniel Arnold photographed this unique relationship between fan and team.



At Green Bay's first stock sale in 1923, a grocer, an attorney, a doctor, and a newspaper publisher led a meeting of 400 people at an Elks Lodge. The ranks of stockholders today—after subsequent offerings in 1935, 1950, 1997, and 2011—have swelled to north of 360,000 people.

Stock offerings raised more than $64 million in the 2011 sale alone, which went toward a renovation of Lambeau Field, but the benefits are mostly symbolic. Owners don't control the team—that's left to the board of directors and general manager—but they get a certificate, access to special merchandise, an an annual party.

A 2015 Green Bay Press-Gazette article sifted through 500 of the paper's obituaries and found that 300 of them were for people described as avid Packers fans. An 84-year-old woman told a reporter she'd already picked out her burial garb: a Brett Favre jersey, autographed on the right sleeve, which she planned to face toward whoever came by to pay respects at her green-and-yellow casket.

The Packers have sold out every home game during the Super Bowl era, more than 50 straight years. The team's website boasts of a "legendary" season-ticket waiting list, and for good reason: the list has about the same population as Green Bay itself. A recent expansion to Lambeau Field brought in some new season ticket holders who had been on the list since the ’70s.

Nowhere in North America do fans embrace their players so famously as at Lambeau Field. Since 1993, Packers players who score a touchdown at home have jumped up into the section behind the end zone for some vertical crowd surfing. Receiver Jordy Nelson told ESPN about the Lambeau Leap: "It's always a hassle to get out of it. That's the biggest issue. The fans hold onto you. They want to try to stay warm and cuddle a little bit."