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Why do the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving NFL tradition goes back decades for Lions, Cowboys

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 27: A young fan with a turkey hat looks on during the Thanksgiving day game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 27, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 27: A young fan with a turkey hat looks on during the Thanksgiving day game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears at Ford Field on November 27, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are the only two NFL teams who play on Thanksgiving Day every year - here's why:

Here's why the Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving:

It all started when the Detroit Lions were actually the Portsmouth Spartans - in 1929. In 1934, owner George Richards bought the team and moved it to Detroit.

The Lions, at that time, were looking for new ways to draw fans. As a marketing idea, Richards convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations across the country. 

It worked. The Lions would end up selling out their first Thanksgiving Day game (26,000 seats), and even though they lost to the Bears, a new tradition was born.

Here's why the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving:

The Cowboys had a similar motive for wanting to play on Thanksgiving. The team was looking to boost its popularity and in 1966, they had the chance to play on Thanksgiving.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm thought it was a great chance to showcase the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on a national scale.

The Cowboys signed up for a Thanksgiving Day game, even though the league was worried fans might not show up in Texas, on a holiday.

They were wrong. The Cowboys broke their previous attendance record in their first Thanksgiving game against the Cleveland Browns, which they won 26-14. A new NFL tradition was born.


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