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MT5: Family Night a unique Packers tradition

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy


On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT, the Packers will hold their 18th annual Family Night. In my mind, Family Night highlights the uniqueness of the connection between the Packers and our fans. No other team can draw 80,000 people for a practice. We realize that tickets for our games are hard to come by, and Family Night provides a great opportunity for families with young kids to see the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Family Night is much more than a Packers practice, though. The parking lots open at 1:30 p.m. and we normally have quite a bit of tailgating. Also in the parking lot is the Pick`N Save Picnic, Packers Fan Clubs, Kohl's Sign making, Chevy Vehicle Display, the Kemps Mooseum and more. Activities start in the stadium at 5:50 p.m. with a number of dance teams. The Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team performs at 7:15 p.m. The players and coaches will be introduced at 7:30 p.m., and then practice will start. Also, during the evening, we will show a portion of Jerry Kramer's Hall of Fame induction speech from Canton. After being a finalist 11 times and waiting over four decades, it will be a special evening for Jerry and all Packers fans. At 9:20 p.m., we will start the Chili's Jerseys-Off-Our-Backs promotion where players give their Family Night-used jersey to lucky fans in attendance. The highlight of the evening is the spectacular fireworks and laser display at 9:30 p.m. You'll want to make sure you stay for that.

Now, on to your questions…

Dan from Minneapolis

Mr. Murphy, I know from the shareholders meeting that the Packers have $380 million in financial assets, with additional funds set aside for charity. My question is, what is the overall debt load the organization is carrying for Titletown, stadium renovations, property investments, etc.? As a fan who remembers the financial struggles of the franchise in earlier years, I am curious as to the level of assets if all outstanding debt were paid. Hopefully, this is well over $200 million or so. Thank you!

The Packers have traditionally carried very little debt, Dan. We reported $114.8 million of bank debt in the program distributed to shareholders last week. $20 million of that was a 30-day loan we repaid during the first week of April, and all but $1 million of the remainder is G-4. G-4 is the NFL loan program (with very favorable terms) that teams use for stadium projects. We used the G-4 loan for the South End Zone addition and the Atrium renovation. We're in a very good position financially.

A question from Chad

You might not respond to this one because you'd be giving information to the enemy, but do different fans of different teams in different sports, in particular football, have different cultures that they are unaware of? While paying attention to the Brewers, it is radically different than following the Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, or Cubs because the MLB was founded 115 years ago and there is no salary cap. I don't know why the Lakers and Celtics were successful in the 1980s and earlier. But, the Packers have been successful because of their fans rather than money. It seems like it would be different to be a Packers fan than Lions or Titans. I just don't know, but you'd be the guy to ask with all of your experiences! So, to make it clear, is it a different experience being a Packers fan than for other teams in the NFL? I don't really know, my life as a fan has been consumed by the two quarterbacks, but I think the exploration of this analysis shows that the reason the Packers are and have been successful – compared to the Yankees – is because of their fans.

Chad, I definitely think it is different being a fan of the Packers than a fan of other NFL teams. This is primarily because of our ownership structure. Since we are owned by the fans, our fans have a much stronger connection to the team. We see this connection in things like Family Night (as stated above), attendance at training camp practices and the way our fans travel to away games. I'm very familiar with the Washington Redskins, and their fans are great, but they are nothing like Packers fans. Green Bay's own John Anderson, ESPN sportscaster, summed it up pretty well when he said that Packers fans talk about "our" team when they are talking about the Packers.

A question from Anthony

Hi Mark, I read an interesting article regarding the Titletown District by Rob Reischel in Forbes Magazine. In that article, he quoted you as saying that you were expecting to run in the red for the first few years of the District as capital investments are being paid off. My question: How will this anticipation of running in the red impact football operations, specifically in terms of extending key players and signing outside free agents?

Titletown will have no impact on football operations, Anthony. Titletown is separate from our football operations, and, under our collective bargaining agreement, there is a cap on how much we can spend on player salaries. We manage the cap well and plan to spend close to the cap every year. In the long run, we anticipate that Titletown will return a reasonable profit and that it will help us remain competitive in the NFL. Also, it is a great community asset that makes Green Bay a better place to live and visit, and should help spur economic development in the area.

Sally from Syracuse, NY

Mark, I was at the EAA AirVenture last week and was surprised to see a Packers exhibit. I'm a huge Packers fan and was glad to see the exhibit, but I don't see the connection between the Packers and the air show. Why was the exhibit at EAA?

As you may know, Sally, this is the Packers' 100th season and we are celebrating our great history over the next year until we turn 100 years old on Aug. 11, 2019. The exhibit you saw at EAA was Lambeau Field Live. As part of our 100 Seasons celebration, we decided to create the Lambeau Field Live exhibit and take the best parts of Lambeau Field on the road to large events across the state. The exhibit includes a Lambeau Leap, a tunnel to run onto the field, and a Packers Hall of Fame. In addition to EAA, we also took Lambeau Field Live to Summerfest, the Northern Wisconsin State Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair, and will go to the Taste of Madison in early September.

Here's a bit of Packers history for you, Sally. Although there may not be a clear connection between the Packers and the EAA AirVenture, the Packers were the first NFL team to fly to an away game in 1940. The team flew in a DC-3. In fact, we had worked with the EAA to have three DC-3s do a flyover before our shareholder meeting. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate for the meeting or the flyover.

John from Waukesha, WI

I read that a number of players recently said they were confused by the new use-of-the-helmet rule. How do you think the rule will be officiated this year?

I saw that story as well, John. It is certainly understandable that players will question how a new rule will be called by the officials. Like anything else in life, change is often hard. While the new rule seems like a big change, I don't think it will have as big an impact as some people are predicting. The rule is designed to prevent the helmet from being used as a weapon. Teams will be penalized 15 yards if a player lowers his head and initiates contact with the helmet. I have confidence that our players will adjust and that not a lot of penalties will be called. The rule is designed to protect players – both the player getting hit and the hitter. I believe the players that will be the most challenged by the rule will be the defensive backs, especially safeties. They must make quick decisions at full speed on where to hit an offensive player. Our experience, though, shows that they can adjust.

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