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Similar to the real-life food chain, it’s impossible for everyone in the NFL to sit atop the standings; with each passing week, losing franchises get pushed further and further down the pecking order. Unfortunately for Detroit Lions fans, their favorite team has spent quite some time at the bottom of the pile.

While that reality may be unpleasant for everyone in the Motor City, it hasn’t done too much damage, at least from a financial perspective. Despite their recent struggles, the Detroit Lions are still worth more than $2 billion.

The Detroit Lions have a long and unsuccessful history

In the world of sports, virtually every franchise has a few shining moments they can collectively cling to when times get tough. Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, those positive memories are buried under an avalanche of disappointment.

The Lions franchise actually started life as the Portsmouth Spartans and played pretty well but struggled to survive in southern Ohio. Hoping that a big city would provide a much needed financial boost, George A. Richards bought the team and moved them to Detroit; in 1934, the Lions were officially born.

While the club won the league championship during their second season in Detroit, results quickly started to decline. The Lions returned to form in the 1950s, winning three more titles during the decade; unfortunately for everyone in the Motor City, things have only gone downhill from there.

Barring a few bright spots with the likes of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, the Lions haven’t found much success over the years. Since their last championship in 1957, the franchise has only made the playoffs 12 times; only three of those trips made it past the Wild Card round. As you might assume, there have also been losses along the way, including a brutal 0-16 season.

Who owns the Detroit Lions?

While it was George A. Richards who brought the Lions to Detroit, a different family has controlled the team for more than 50 years: the Fords.

In 1963, William Clay Ford Sr. took over ownership of the Lions; he remained in charge until his death in 2014. At that point, Ford’s widow, Martha Firestone Ford, took over the team.

Ford wasn’t exactly beloved in Detroit, though—it’s tough to be popular when your team is terrible—but wasn’t prepared to sell the Lions. A middle ground, however, surfaced in June 2020; Sheila Ford Hamp, Ford’s daughter, took over ownership of the team, theoretically freshening up the executive level without relinquishing the franchise to a third party.

Despite the team’s struggles, the Ford family still controls a $2 billion asset

Beyond personal pride, it’s understandable why the Fords would want to keep the Detroit Lions in the family. Despite their seemingly permanent residence in the NFL cellar, the franchise is still worth quite a bit of cash.

Based on Forbes’ 2020 NFL franchise valuations, the Lions are the 30th-most valuable team in the league. While that might sound bleak—no one wants to be the third-worst at anything—there’s still a silver lining. Due to the massive financial might of professional football, the club is still worth an estimated $2.1 billion.

If 2020 is anything to go by, the Detroit Lions won’t turn into Super Bowl contenders anytime soon. At the end of the day, though, they’re still pretty valuable to the Ford family.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference