Detroit Lions leadership changes, but stays in Ford family

Sheila Ford Hamp takes over as principal owner

Leadership of the Detroit Lions is changing, but staying within the Ford family, as Sheila Ford Hamp takes over for her mother, Martha Ford.
Leadership of the Detroit Lions is changing, but staying within the Ford family, as Sheila Ford Hamp takes over for her mother, Martha Ford.

DETROIT – Leadership of the Detroit Lions is changing, but staying within the Ford family, as Sheila Ford Hamp takes over for her mother, Martha Ford.

Ford stepped down Tuesday as the principal owner of the Lions, handing the reins to her daughter.

Hamp said during her introductory press conference that these won’t be the same old Lions.

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Just hours into her new role as principal owner of the Lions, Hamp said this has been a long time coming. She said she grew up around the team and has shadowed her mother for the past six years, learning a lot.

She said she’s grown her overall knowledge of the National Football League by attending meetings the past four years. On Tuesday, she got a congratulatory call from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Hamp said she knows she’s in elite company as one of four female owners.

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The team’s new owner was pleased with this year’s draft, and the win-now mandate is still very much in effect for general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.

She said even though leadership is staying within the Ford family, there will be a new voice at the top.

Hamp said the team is preparing for a season. As far as they know, despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they’ll play football in the fall, she said.

She also made a point to say she supports players in their right to free speech and peaceful protests.

Martha Ford’s tenure

Ford took over as the principal owner in 2014.

“It has been a great honor for our family to be associated with the Lions and with the National Football League,” Ford said in a statement. “I am gratified that this family tradition, which my husband 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.”

“My mother has inspired all of us since taking on leadership of the Lions over six years ago,” Hamp said in a statement. “She has been a tireless leader to our family, our team and our community. Her smart decisions have given me a solid foundation to take the team forward. On behalf of the family and the team, I want to thank her for her countless contributions. I look forward to leading the Lions to excellence on and off the field.”

The Lions made the playoffs twice under Ford’s leadership, losing in the wildcard round to the Dallas Cowboys in January 2015 and the Seattle Seahawks in January 2017.

Detroit has famously gone more than 28 years without a playoff win. The franchise has one playoff win in the Super Bowl era, which dates back to 1957.

Last season, the second under head coach Matt Patricia, the Lions finished with an abysmal 3-12-1 record, though a season-ending injury to quarterback Matthew Stafford certainly played a big part in that.

The Lions selected Jeff Okudah, a cornerback from Ohio State, with the No. 3 overall pick and managed to add D’Andre Swift, the best running back prospect in the draft, during the second round.

Here’s Hamp’s bio on the official Lions website:

Mrs. Hamp carries the Ford Family’s proud legacy that was first established by her father, William Clay Ford, who passed away on March 9, 2014, after serving as the sole owner of the franchise for 50 seasons (1964-2013). Mr. Ford’s ownership grew into a deeply-rooted family tradition that now includes multiple generations of the Ford Family.

“At the age of five, Mrs. Hamp, the second of four children, began attending Lions games at Briggs (Tiger) Stadium and Lions training camp at Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. As a teenager, her love of the Lions and knowledge of the game of football would impress many, including then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Now as Principal Owner and Chairman, Mrs. Hamp focuses that love, knowledge and commitment to the team that has been part of her family for decades. She also serves on the NFL’s Super Bowl and Major Events Committee and the board for Detroit Lions Charities.

“Beyond her involvement with the Lions, Mrs. Hamp and her husband, Steve, are very active in numerous community and charitable organizations. Together they Co-Chair the board of the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Mich. Mrs. Hamp also is the Vice-Chairman of the Board of the Henry Ford. In addition, she serves on the Boards of The Ford Motor Company Fund and the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House.

“Mrs. Hamp was a member of the ground-breaking group of students who were in the first class of women to graduate from Yale University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree. While at Yale, she played varsity tennis and earned Major Y honors during her college career. Following her graduation from Yale, she earned her Masters of Arts degree in teaching and early childhood education from Boston University.

“Sports have always been an integral part of Mrs. Hamp’s life. In addition to her accomplishments as a college tennis player, she competed as a junior tennis player at the national level and won a Michigan State tennis title at age 17. She also coached youth soccer for more than 10 years in her current home town of Ann Arbor, where she and her husband, Steve, raised their family.”

Detroit Lions vice chair Sheila Ford Hamp and Detroit Lions owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford talks to Detroit Lions executive vice president & general manager Bob Quinn before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018 in Detroit. (Detroit Lions via AP). (Detroit Lions via AP)
Martha Ford and Sheila Ford Hamp of the Detroit Lions. (Detroit Lions)

About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.