Packers Tried to Hide How Much They Paid Don Hutson
There has never been another pro football player as dominant at his position as Packers wide receiver Don Hutson.
Last June, we highlighted just how impossible to stop Hutson was:
Over his eleven year career, Hutson led the league in receiving touchdowns nine times, receptions eight times, and receiving yards seven times. He literally rewrote the record books for receiving yards. Check out how the single-season record for receiving yards changed over Hutson’s career:
The NFL in the 1930’s was not the cash cow it is today. With the economy in the final years of the Great Depression, Hutson’s arrival in Green Bay to play the sport of football had to be handled discreetly.
A local fan sued the Packers in the mid 1930’s for $5,000 (about $90,000 in 2018) after falling out of the stands at City Stadium, sending the team into financial turmoil. In typical Green Bay fashion, a fund drive was pitched to help the football and shares of the Packers were sold in 1935 at $25 apiece (about $450 in 2018).
New funds in tow, the Packers were once again financially solid. And that’s when Don Hutson entered the picture.
Packers coach Earl “Curly” Lambeau got his first glimpse of Hutson in the 1935 Rose Bowl. Hutson, an All-American end at the University of Alabama, was in high demand.
Both the Packers and Brooklyn Dodgers (the football team) pursued Hutson, and surprisingly he signed a contract with both squads. Because NFL president Joe Carr received the contract first from Green Bay, he became a Packer.
There was no doubt fans wanted to watch and enjoy Hutson. But the team’s board of directors were concerned that locals would find a massive contract with the receiver as frivolous after the Packers raised funds from the community.
The board came up with what they believed was an ingenious idea. Hutson would be paid through two separate banks, and each bank would believe they were paying Hutson his full paycheck. In reality, they were only giving the receiver half of his salary.
When Hutson was interviewed before Super Bowl XXII in 1988, he confirmed that the board was concerned fans “would discover how much money I was making that they had my paycheck divided between two local banks.”
Hutson’s maximum salary during his ten-year professional career, he recalled, was $25,000. He was worth every penny.