Jam Bands Inspire Green Bay Packers New Sober Section

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

One of the National Football League’s premiere franchises has taken a cue from one of the world’s most famous jam bands.

That’s right, the Green Bay Packers have instituted a new policy at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for ticket-buying fans who don’t drink, thanks to Phish.

As NBC’s TODAY show described, the team launched the new endeavor thanks to jam bands that have done similar in the past, including Phish and even—perhaps surprisingly—the Grateful Dead.

The Section Yellow project was started, in part, by John Plageman, who is a recovering alcoholic and a fan of the Packers and jam bands. Speaking to Wisconsin Public Radio, Plageman said he felt a challenge in his sobriety when Phish announced some shows. He wondered if going to the concert might affect his sobriety.

So, he founded The Phellowship, which is a group of Phish fans who are in recovery. They get together under a yellow balloon at shows, hold important 12-step meetings, and, in general, manifest an atmosphere of sober positivity.

Those Yellow Balloon groups have taken place since the 1980s, dating back to the Grateful Dead’s Wharf Rats tour. Other bands like Phish have followed suit in later years, like String Cheese Incident and more.

Plageman said bringing the Yellow Baloon tradition to Packers games struck him while attending a concert in Wisconsin. To date, 14 NFL teams have already established alcohol-free sections. But Lambeau Field is the first to have a region designed that includes support systems for fans.

“Section Yellow is not anything about abolishing or saying no to drinking,” said Plageman to NBC. “We just want to give a safe area for people that are sober… We are in a stadium that holds up to 82,000 people and probably 80,000 of them are consuming some beverage that contains alcohol, so we want [the 2,000] to know that they’re not alone.”

Check out the full NBC segment below.

Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

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