Sheila Ford Hamp held a conference call with reporters Tuesday, where she discussed myriad topics as new Detroit Lions owner. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Ford Hamp said it “was definitely a joint decision” last December among her, her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, and her three siblings to bring Lions coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn back for a third season together in 2020.
When the Lions announced that decision, they sent a letter to season-ticket holders that outlined a general expectation “for the Lions to be a playoff contender in 2020.”
Asked to clarify her expectations Tuesday, Ford Hamp declined to say this is a playoff-or-bust year.
“Well, again, as I say, I think this is going to be kind of a weird year,” she said. “So I don’t want to say anything about wins and losses. I think the overarching thing is that we want to see major improvement. And at this point, I can’t really say what those specific measures are going to be cause I don’t know what the season’s going to be like yet. But major improvement is the goal.”
2. Ford Hamp, who has apprenticed as an owner for the past six years, said she intends to be involved but not interfering as an owner. Among other things, she said she wants to speak more often with the media — her mother rarely spoke to reporters — and take a deep dive into parts of the organization she doesn’t know extremely well, such as the football analytics department.
“I don’t plan to meddle, but I plan to be informed enough so that I can make good decisions at the top,” she said.
3. When eight Lions players took a knee to protest social injustices during the national anthem in 2018, Firestone Ford asked players not to kneel at a team meeting days later and in turn promised to donate both money and her name to causes important to them.
Ford Hamp said she will not kneel for the anthem herself, but she supports players who want to silently protest during the song.
“First of all, I think the understanding is completely different now,” she said. “I think most people really understand what the kneeling was all about. I know thmissioner has said and I completely agree that we support our players’ right to peaceful protest, we support the First Amendment. I think this has really, finally, finally, thank goodness, gotten national attention that this is a serious problem and we as an organization plan to listen to our players and support them any way we can.”
4. It’s a long shot the Lions sign Colin Kaepernick after inking Chase Daniel to a three-year deal to be backup quarterback this offseason. But if Quinn and Patricia want to add Kaepernick to the roster, Ford Hamp said she will support that decision.
“If our coaches and our general manager all think it’s a good idea to bring him in, I would completely support that,” she said.
5. Asked if she had a message to long-suffering fans, Ford Hamp spoke of her own competitiveness and distaste for losing.
“My message (is) I’m going to do everything in my power to create a winning organization, and especially on the field,” she said. “The fans deserve it, the city deserves it and I am a very competitive person. I grew up playing competitive tennis. It’s an individual sport and I’m out there by myself and, boy, I hated to lose. I still hate to lose. I guess that’s my message to the fans: I’ll hate to lose as much as they do, and I’ll try not to.
A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.
6. Tuesday’s transfer of power was a long time coming, and Ford Hamp said it has nothing to do with her mother’s health. Firestone Ford, 94, has been a fixture at home and away games in recent seasons and will remain on the team’s board and be involved in key decisions.
“It was really my mother’s decision,” Ford Hamp said. “She’s totally fine and healthy, by the way, I want to get that out there, for sure. We kind of thought this would be a good time because there’s no football right now, so rather than make a switch closer to the season or once things got under way, this seemed like a good time to do it and to give me six weeks or so to get some mileage under my belt before training camp opens (to get) situated and figure out kind of exactly how I’m going to do this job.”
7. The Lions are one of six NFL teams with a female majority owner, and Ford Hamp said “it’s pretty awesome, actually,” to be taking the torch from her mother.
“My mother really broke the ground for me and I look around the NFL and actually there are quite a few women owners now, so it’s changed a lot. When I graduated from college all I wanted to do was go work for the NFL and at the time Pete Rozelle was the commissioner and he was a friend of mine, actually, cause I had attended so many events with my father and ended up sitting next to him at a couple dinners. We communicated, so I went to see him and he literally could not think of anything for a female to do way back then. And so, things have changed a lot and I think it’s terrific. I’m excited to say I look around the league and there are quite a few women owners now. This is great.”
8. Finally, I wrote last December after sitting down with Ford Hamp, her mother and Lions president Rod Wood that I was impressed with Ford Hamp, how she explained the decision to keep Patricia and Quinn, and the “smart, strong and decisive” way she carried herself.
She made a similarly positive impression on Tuesday’s teleconference, mixing in humor and honesty – she acknowledged she’ll be a bit of a work in progress as an owner – while accentuating her desire to win.
I don’t know if the Lions will or not under her watch, and I’m sure there will be plenty of times I disagree with something she says or does. But it’s OK to feel optimistic about the organization on Day 1 of her official tenure as owner.
“I do feel like we’ve made some progress in the offseason,” she said. “I have not seen any of the players because all these meetings have been virtual and obviously nobody’s been on the field yet. But on paper, I’m very pleased with our draft and free agency and I know Coach Patricia’s very pleased with the meetings we’ve had. It looks like the group is very cohesive and these difficult social justice conversations have actually helped to bond the team. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody in action. And yes, we plan and expect an improved team and I think we’re going to get that.”