Player Experience with Housing Discrimination

Prior to the Vince Lombardi era in Green Bay, African-American football players were few and far between. At the time Lombardi took over the head coaching duties from Ray Mclean in 1959, there were only two African-American players on the roster. Over the course of the next few seasons, Lombardi would outshine virtually all of his other colleagues in the front offices throughout the NFL when it came to recruiting and drafting African-American talent. Although Lombardi was instrumental in bringing black players too Green Bay, that does not mean that those players were free from the racism and discrimination that was very prevalent in American society at the time. In one way, or another, all of the African-American Players in Green Bay struggled to find adequate housing arrangements. During this time it was common for players to simply rent a small house or apartment during the football season, and then leave for the offseason (January-June).1 During the 1950s and 60s most NFL players did not make enough money to own a home in both their hometown, and in Green Bay, or to rent year round. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and later Open Housing Ordinances passed in Green Bay, African American Players experienced first-hand, the plight which African-Americans across the State and country were feeling when it came to housing discrimination.

When Lombardi became head coach in 1959, there were few places willing to provide African-Americans with hospitable living quarters. Green Bay and Brown County were essentially a fraction of the size they are now. There were no large suburban communities, and there was actually, before the mid-1960s, very few apartment complexes. Where housing was available, preference was given to whites. The general housing situation improved after the Packers begun winning championships in 62, 63, 64, etc. Herb Adderley discusses these issues more in depth in his book Lombardi’s Left Side. Other African-American Packer players who have shared their experiences with housing difficulties include Dave Robinson, Willie Davis, and Marv Fleming.2

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Hall of Fame defensive back, Herb Adderley struggled to find housing in Green Bay during his first two seasons with the Packers. Adderley, along with other African-American teammates Willie Davis, and Elijah Pitts lived in what Adderley referred to as a “rats nest” outside the Green Bay city limits during the 1961 season.

Herb Adderley discusses the publication of his book Lombardi’s Left Side with Green Bay Press Gazette Sports Editor Mike Vandermausse.

[1] Richard Ryman, “Lombardi’s Packers: Legendary Players were part of Green Bay’s social, neighborhood life”, Green Bay Press Gazette, August 6, 2018.

[2] Dougherty, Pete, “Herb Adderley Lived Both Sides of Rivalry”, Green Bay Press Gazette, April 9, 2016.

Image credit: Tony Tomsic, Getty Images.


  1. “Lombardi’s Packers: Legendary Players Were Part of Green Bay Social, Neighborhood Life.” Green Bay Press Gazette (Green Bay, WI), August 6, 2018
  2. Dougherty, Pete. “Herb Adderley Lived Both Sides of Rivalry.” Green Bay Press Gazette (Green Bay, WI), April 9, 2016