The Detroit Lions and Thanksgiving Day go together like the turkey and gravy on your plate.
For nearly 80 years, the Lions have played every Thanksgiving. Legendary running back Barry Sanders and iconic receiver Calvin Johnson gave Lions fans something to root for even in the franchise’s worst season.
The Detroit Lions still intend to play this Thanksgiving, barring any unexpected setbacks in the year of COVID-19, but a significant change is coming to the Lions’ annual game.
The Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving
In the pre-COVID times, Thanksgiving Day always had certain guarantees.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in New York City that morning. A few hours later, the Detroit Lions would kickoff in the first of two — and later, three — games.
The Dallas Cowboys play in the second game. Since 2006, a third game — which originally aired on NFL Network and now airs on NBC — follows the Cowboys game.
Although the Lions are usually out of the playoff picture by Thanksgiving, the annual game is tradition. Detroit has never had a shortage of great players, including Barry Sanders, and Thanksgiving provided a national audience with an opportunity to watch those poor souls whose careers were wasted in Detroit.
The Lions’ Thanksgiving game will look different this year
The coronavirus pandemic forced significant changes to the Macy’s Parade, including no spectators.
Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, Ford Field will also be without spectators. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced an emergency epidemic order designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Schools, movie theatres, stadiums, arenas, and other buildings that draw large crowds are closed indefinitely. Michigan residents have been asked to work from home and avoid mass gatherings.
The Detroit Lions received good news in that, for now, they can continue to play at Ford Field. But there will be no fans in attendance, and that includes family members and friends of coaches and players.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services director Robert Gordon confirmed the Lions are included in the epidemic order.
“No attendance will mean no attendance,” Gordon said.
The Lions had roughly 500 family members and friends attend the last two home games. Detroit is 4-5 this season despite scoring 40 fewer points than their opponents.
Detroit hosts Deshaun Watson and the Texans on Thanksgiving Day.
Will any of the Thanksgiving games have fans in the stands?
Although the Detroit Lions will have empty stands on Thanksgiving Day, the same can’t be said — for now — about the other two home teams.
The Dallas Cowboys had 31,700 fans at AT&T Stadium on November 8. As of November 16, the Cowboys had not announced if there is a maximum for Thanksgiving.
Dallas is selling limited tickets for a riveting Thanksgiving showdown between the Cowboys and the Washington Football Team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers began having fans in October. Pittsburgh is 9-0 and, if they take down the Jaguars in Week 11, will host Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Thanksgiving with a perfect 10-0 record.
As always, everything is subject to change over the next week.