What Packers legend Curly Lambeau would tell MLB, MLBPA about return-to-play negotiations

Andy Hart
June 01, 2020 - 4:08 pm

Major League Baseball’s owners and players are trying to figure out a way to return to the diamond this summer. So far, it doesn’t seem to be going too well.

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Given the way the coronavirus shut down professional sports and much of the world we live in, these are often referred to as unprecedented times. And to some degree they are.

But this is far from the first time that professional sports have had to maneuver their survival through real-world crisis.

Some 80 years ago, late Green Bay Packers co-founder Curly Lambeau and his NFL brethren faced a decision as to how their league should proceed with the United States having been pulled into World War II by the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Still a relatively new, fledgling league, the NFL faced the question as to whether to play on with the country at war.

In his book “NFL Century: The One-Hundred-Year Rise of America’s Greatest Sports League” former Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Director Joe Horrigan details the NFL’s decision to continue to field teams and play games despite what was going on elsewhere in the world.

Horrigan notes that NFL Commissioner Elmer Layden – former Notre Dame athletic director and member of the famed Irish “Four Horsemen” backfield -- quoted Aristotle’s belief that “sports and entertainment are necessary for the relaxation of the people in times of stress and worry.”

Layden leaned on those in his game to support the effort to play on despite war, including the legendary Packers coach Lambeau. Lambeau expressed a message that still seemingly rings true to this day, especially with MLB owners and players haggling in the media regarding finances and profits/losses felt in a battle between billionaires and millionaires.

“For professional sports, the easiest method would be to call the whole thing off,” Horrigan quoted Lambeau as declaring. “But what kind of example would that be for the youngster who looks to the stars for guidance and inspiration? Only one course is open to sports, that is – carry on without regard to the sacrifice. This is no time for sports to look for a profit!”

The NFL did play on as war raged on. In the many decades since, the league has gone on to become the most powerful in America.

At a crossroads in a potentially lost season and possibly in the overall stability of the sport, Major League Baseball has its own important decision to make with the country now trying to work through and rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

MLB owners and players would be smart to listen to Lambeau’s advice from eight decades earlier.

“This is no time for sports to look for a profit!”

Related: MLB Players Propose 114-Game Season Starting June 30: Report