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Troubled Times in TITLE TOWN
Frank Deford
May 25, 1987
Court cases and losing seasons have strained the bond between the fans in Green Bay and their once-beloved football team
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May 25, 1987

Troubled Times In Title Town

Court cases and losing seasons have strained the bond between the fans in Green Bay and their once-beloved football team

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Davis says, "I have had people in Green Bay and Milwaukee come up and ask me, "What's going on in Green Bay with those black players? What's wrong with those guys? You didn't have those problems when you were playing.' I answer, "What's going on in Green Bay with all the players?'

"I would hate to see the [Lofton-Cade cases] labeled as a black-white issue because that perception could grow into a very bad situation. If black players begin to believe that Green Bay is a place where they will be hassled then I think they are going to try and avoid it. Players might get the perception that those people in Green Bay basically ran James Lofton out of town. In the final analysis, not only James Lofton would be a loser but Green Bay would ultimately be a loser. That is the potential problem of this thing. The judge and the jury will handle the legal aspect; that's the easy part. How the community handles this is the most crucial thing."

No one has ever accused Green Bay of being any more prejudiced than the white section of any large city. In many places, blacks are viewed as threats. In Green Bay they are merely curiosities.

Among themselves blacks have long commented that in the South you can get close but not too big, while in the North you can get big but not too close.

In Green Bay, it's yet another step: the black as novelty.

"I was aware of this from the first day," says Johnnie Gray. "A few of us were driving along, and at a stop light the people in the next car signaled for us to put our window down. And then they said, "Which ones are you?' "

"A lot of fans," Davis says, referring to Green Bay, "will say something to black players without realizing it may have racial overtones."

Another former Packer great from the dynasty years, a black player who asked not to be identified, remembers his first days in Green Bay when he was shown substandard housing: "The impressions of blacks came from what [the whites] saw on TV. They seemed to think that all blacks lived in ghettos or were poor." Willie Wood, the former Packer defensive back, says much the same happened to him, that he had to live in a room at the Y during his rookie year because he could not find suitable housing.

In Don Zuidmulder's father's time, white Packers might have been amused at being pets at the cocktail party. Some blacks cannot abide that notion. Often, Gray says, feelings are exacerbated in public places when black players see whites looking at them, pointing, whispering—so some of the blacks will stride over and say sarcastically, "Something I can help you with?" Blacks on the Packers tell newcomers to remember that there are white fans who have never even seen blacks except at football games or on TV. There also is a joke about the rookie who arrived at a hotel and called back home, "This place is really weird. Even the maids are white." And, in a league that hardly champions minority promotion, the Packers' nine coaches last year were all white—although the team signed a black assistant, Willie Peete, in February, after all the bad publicity.

Apart from local attitudes, Lofton and Cade certainly do not profit in the public sentiment, because of what appears to be an increase in the number of black athletes recently arrested for sexual assault. The most comprehensive analysis of this new problem in sport was a series last year by Rich Hofmann in the Philadelphia Daily News. It tabulated 61 such incidents, involving 88 athletes at 46 different colleges, and 90% of the offenders were black. Which raises obvious questions:

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