The Green Bay Packers relied on tradition and past practices in deciding who will receive Super Bowl XLV rings at the Lambeau Field Atrium private ceremony on June 16.
“We’re staying consistent with what we’ve done in the past,” said team President and CEO Mark Murphy.
But there is one mistake from 14 years ago – the last time the Packers handed out championship rings – the organization won’t repeat.
This time around, every player entitled to a ring will receive an invitation to attend the ceremony. Shockingly, that wasn’t the case in 1997 following the Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XXXI.
Three notable players from that title team who became free agents – Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard, Chris Jacke and Andre Rison – weren’t invited to the traditional championship celebration at the White House and weren’t on the original list to attend the ring ceremony at Oneida Golf and Country Club.
The snub set off such a furor among outraged fans that the Packers were shamed into extending belated invitations to the players for the ring ceremony.
The Packers used convoluted logic to explain their original decision, saying they wanted the two functions to serve as team-building events for the 1997 season and not as a time to reflect on the 1996 championship season.
It made no sense, and the Packers’ lack of appreciation for three key players made them look petty and arrogant.
“I found out there’s no love there from the organization,” said Howard at the time. “If there was, they would have invited all of us. It’s a business. They’re showing what they think of us. To them, we’re mere laborers. When they use us up, they treat us with disrespect.”
The Packers have steered clear of any post-Super Bowl public relations blunders this year. The biggest controversy has stemmed from the NFL lockout that forbids contact between players and team management. Murphy needed special permission from the league to schedule the ring ceremony.
“I talked to the commissioner,” Murphy said. “They worked with us. I think the sense was this was really based on what we accomplished last year.”
The White House ceremony, however, is still on hold.
“We would love to be able to do it but really that’s going to be dependent on when the labor situation gets resolved,” said Murphy. “It would have to be resolved.”
Murphy said the Packers prefer to keep the list of players and employees that receive rings private. He did, however, reveal during the Packers Tailgate Tour earlier this month that cornerback Al Harris would be one of the recipients.
Harris spent half the season on the PUP list (physically unable to perform) and was never on the active roster in 2010 before getting cut. Rewarding Harris with a ring will go over well in the locker room and acknowledges his tireless rehabilitation efforts after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2009.
According to Murphy, General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy made the final decision on Harris getting a ring, as well as all other football-related personnel. Murphy, senior staff members and the executive committee determined which non-football staff members made the list.
Murphy declined to say whether Johnny Jolly, who was suspended for the 2010 season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, would receive a ring. Common sense alone suggests strongly that Jolly won’t get one.
Unlike Howard, Jacke and Rison in 1997, Jolly doesn’t deserve to be part of the celebration, and the Packers won’t have to fear a public backlash over that decision.