Just a few hours into landing the job, Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp jumped on a Zoom teleconference call to answer 30 minutes worth of questions from the media. Topics ranged from Colin Kaepernick to what has failed the Lions over the past 60 years to how she plans to operate differently from her mother and father.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from Ford Hamp’s introductory press conference.
The decision was made by Martha Ford, who is healthy
Right off the bat, Ford Hamp wanted to stop any speculation in its tracks, noting that the change in ownership was completely the decision of former owner Martha Firestone Ford. Despite her age of 94 years young, her health had nothing to do with it.
“It was really my mother’s decision,” Ford Hamp said. “She’s totally fine and healthy, by the way. Just want to get that out there.”
The timing of the decision had much more to do with the fact that there is not much happening in football right now, with the offseason program coming to a close last week.
“Rather than make a switch closer to the season or once things got underway, this seemed like a good time to do it,” Ford Hamp said. “It gives me six weeks or so to get some mileage under my belt before training camp opens (and get) situated and figure out how exactly I’m going to do this job.”
She plans on being “hands-on” but won’t meddle in every decision
Ford Hamp’s first plan on the job is to get to know everything she can about the organization before she goes changing everything. She wants to take an aggressive approach.
“I plan to be very hands-on,” Ford Hamp said. “One of my first things I want to do is set up with [Team President] Rod [Wood] some meetings with other parts of the organization that I really don’t know that well. I really want to take a deep dive and understand the whole thing.”
That being said, she doesn’t have an immediate plan of changing much—or as she humorously said, “I don’t have a hit list or anything.”
And don’t make the mistake of believing this is just a side gig for Ford Hamp. Being raised by a football family and going to games since she was a child helped forge an inherent love for the NFL.
“When I graduated from college, all I wanted to do is work for the NFL,” Ford Hamp admitted.
She also will respect the boundaries of some of the employees beneath her on the totem pole.
“I don’t plan to meddle, but I plan to be informed enough so that I can make good decisions at the top,” Ford Hamp said.
She supports peaceful protests from players and would have no problem signing Colin Kaepernick
Back in 2016, ownership essentially asked players to stop kneeling during the anthem by coming to an agreement that they would financially support a set of social justice initiatives.
Now that the conversation in this country has drastically shifted, Ford Hamp says the team’s stance has shifted with it.
“I think the understanding is completely different now,” Ford Hamp said. “I think most people really understand what the kneeling was all about. I know that the commissioner has said—and I completely agree—that we support our players’ right to peaceful protest. We support the First Amendment.”
When it comes to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Ford Hamp says she would not veto a decision to sign the quarterback if the coaching and management staff believed it to be the right move.
“If our coaches and our general manager all thought it was a good idea to bring him in, I would completely support that.”
She hates losing
A common theme throughout Ford Hamp’s introductory press conference was her hatred and frustration for losing.
“I can absolutely guarantee you that, for myself and for my family, that we are very upset when we lose,” Ford Hamp said. “There’s nothing that makes us more upset.”
“I can guarantee you nobody hates to lose more than me and my family.”
“I am a very competitive person. I grew up playing competitive tennis and it’s an individual sport and it was me out there by myself, and, boy, I hated to lose. I still hate to lose. So, 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.”
Matt Patricia/Bob Quinn mandate has no specific ultimatum, but she needs to see “significant improvement”
Back in December, when ownership decided to keep head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn for another year—a joint decision, according to Ford Hamp—much was made of a semi-ultimatum made by Lions ownership. In a joint statement from Sheila Ford Hamp, Rod Wood and Martha Firestone Ford, the team announced, “Our expectation is for the Lions to be a playoff contender in 2020.”
When asked to specify now that she’s fully in charge, Ford Hamp refused to give any specifics.
“I think this is going to be kind of a weird year. I don’t want to say anything about wins and losses,” Ford Hamp said. “ I think the overarching thing is that we want to see major improvement. At this point, I can’t really say what those specific measures are going to be, because I don’t know what the season is going to be like yet. But believe me, major improvement is a goal.”