Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Goodbye to Lions Owner Martha Ford, who Offered Bribes for Team’s Protest Silence

Automotive heiress Martha Ford is stepping down as owner of the Detroit Lions. Her daughter will take over.
Automotive heiress Martha Ford is stepping down as owner of the Detroit Lions. Her daughter will take over.
Photo: Getty

The Detroit Lions and Roger Goodell have come down with the latest cases, as they’re celebrating Martha Ford, who is stepping down as the franchise’s principal owner, a position she’s held since 2014, while her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, will take over.

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“It has been a great honor for our family to be associated with the Lions and with the National Football League,” she wrote in a statement. “I am gratified that this family tradition, which my husband (William Ford, grandson of Henry Ford) and I began almost six decades ago, will continue under Sheila’s guiding hand. It is clear to me that Sheila will provide superb leadership and is fully committed to competitive excellence and community involvement.”

NFL Commissioner Goodell also chimed in with his own statement.

“Martha Ford has led the Lions with skill and grace for the past six seasons. I have appreciated her business insights, her love of the game, her deep commitment to the NFL, and her personal kindness,” he wrote. “We are pleased that the Ford family will continue to own and operate this historic franchise. Sheila Hamp has become increasingly involved in team and league affairs over the past several years and we look forward to working with her and the rest of the club’s executive team.”

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But while Ford and Goodell may have “misremembered” some things over the years, the internet never forgets. Because while Goodell has been one of the faces of this new “awakening” in the NFL when it comes to race and social justice, Ford tried to bribe her players not to demonstrate in 2017.

According to the Detroit Free Press, three years ago Ford asked players not to kneel during a team meeting. Ford told players that she was willing to cut a check and donate her name and money to any of the community issues that were at the core of the player’s cause for kneeling.

This was also within the same time frame in which she decided to fire Jim Caldwell, the team’s first and only Black head coach, on New Year’s Day in 2018 because his 9-7 record that season wasn’t good enough. Caldwell’s replacement was former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.

Patricia has only won 9 games in his two seasons in Detroit. Caldwell’s 56.3 percent winning percentage in his four-year tenure exceeded that of any Lions coach in the last 60 years.

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In December, Ford announced that she was keeping Patricia and had the nerve to write a letter to season ticket holders about how they “deserve a winning team,” even after she let go of the coach that led her team to two of its three playoff appearances since 1999.

On the team’s website, there is a column about how Martha Ford “brought a hands-on style to the Lions as owner, and how “her management style, and desire to win, was apparent in her first season as owner in 2014.”

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Her daughter, the new owner, said that her mother’s “smart decisions have given me a solid foundation to take the team forward.” The Lions were 45-50 under Ford’s tenure, with 36 of those wins coming with Caldwell at the helm.

Convenient amnesia makes you believe that a coach with a 9-22-1 record is a solid function to build upon.

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Good luck, Lions fans.

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

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