As the futures of Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn continue to look bleaker and bleaker, attention is slowly turning to team owner Sheila Ford Hamp. She took over the team just a few months ago, after her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, stepped down. Now Hamp may face the daunting task of rebuilding a franchise in disarray.
Luckily for the Lions, that is something she has done before. In a wonderful profile of Hamp done by ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, the Lions owner’s accomplishments—both personal and professional—are detailed nicely. From turning The Henry Ford Museum to a “state-of-the-art museum” to saving a local theater called The Purple Rose, Hamp’s devotion and passion are on full display.
“Sheila gets things done,” actor Jeff Daniels told ESPN. “When she commits, they get all that she can do. My theatre company is better because of Sheila and Steve’s leadership. The Lions will be as well.
And, of course, there’s her love of sports. As Hamp said in her introductory press conference, she had always wanted to work for the NFL, but when she was young, there simply weren’t any opportunities. She went to the NFL Commissioner—Pete Rozelle, a friend at the time—to see how she could get her foot in the door.
“I went to see him and he literally could not think of anything for a female to do way back then,” Hamp recalled in her press conference back in June.
While she’s only had a couple of months on the job and promised she would start out by simply gathering information, she has already managed to make an extremely thoughtful gesture to Lions players. Seeing how important social issues are to these players, Hamp invited author and Black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. to speak to the team just days after their demonstration following the shooting of Jacob Blake. She also made sure they each had a copy of his book, “Stony The Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and The Rise of Jim Crow.”
“This was all Sheila’s idea — to buy the book, to distribute it, to have me do a presentation,” Gates told ESPN. “To give people on the team a chance to talk to me and a way for them to brainstorm about channeling all of the anxiety and fear and anger that we all have about George Floyd and other things we have happening in the United States.”
Ford Hamp is still a mystery to many. She values her privacy and declined interview requests from Rothstein. However, this profile gives an overall promising look at the Lions owner, and maybe even provides a little much-needed optimism in Detroit.