It appears the Detroit Lions' fan base is siding with its Hall of Fame player over the team's owner in a bizarrely petty feud. Or the fans are just mad about the team in general.
Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp, alongside other members of the Ford family, was raucously booed during a ceremony honoring Calvin Johnson's enshrinement in Canton during Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The booing got so bad that Johnson himself had to wave his arms to get the fans to quiet down, per the Detroit Free Press.
Sheila Ford Hamp can barely even speak right now due to the overwhelming boos at Ford Field during the Calvin Johnson Hall of Fame ceremony. pic.twitter.com/mMUN9Wp9CG
— Zach Harig (@FOX17Zach) September 26, 2021
There is plenty for Lions fans to be mad about. The team entered the day 0-2, a year after going 5-11, a year after going 3-12. The team's decision-making has been puzzling for a while, especially when it comes to who runs the actual team. It hasn't been a good situation for one of the NFL's most woeful franchises.
Johnson's presence in particular might have hit a sore spot, however, as it served as another reminder of just how small the team can be.
Why Lions fans might be mad at ownership over Calvin Johnson
Johnson has been in a standoff with the team for years now, basically since his retirement. That's because the team reacted to the news by forcing him to pay back $1.6 million in signing bonus money, which teams generally do not do when dealing with a player of Johnson's caliber.
Since cutting that check, Johnson has generally refused to do anything for the team. His terms for ending the impasse are quite simple: pay him back the $1.6 million. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but the Lions instead responded by proposing Johnson essentially work off the money as a team ambassador. Johnson turned them down.
Johnson and the Lions are still on speaking terms — he reportedly attended a party with team ownership in Canton and was on the field Sunday — but he just isn't doing them any favors. He also didn't mention the organization itself or the Ford family in his enshrinement speech, but did say some nice things to the fans on Sunday, per the Free Press:
“It’s an honor to represent excellence and everything the Hall of Fame stands for,” Johnson said during the ceremony. “It’s an honor to represent Detroit. I love you guys. It’s an honor to represent the NFL and the Johnson name on my back. I love you guys, I love the energy y'all brought every Sunday. I miss you guys and I look forward to many great days in the future here in Detroit.”
What makes this doubly infuriating is that the team did the same thing to another of its all-time greats when it took Barry Sanders to arbitration after his abrupt retirement.
Giants owner booed too
Hamp wasn't the only NFL team owner getting a rough reception from their fans, as New York Giants owner John Mara was also booed during a halftime ceremony featuring Eli Manning.
The now 0-3 Giants have their own problems, and Mara seemed to understand that in a comment to ESPN:
"I would boo, too," Mara said in the hallway heading to his suite before the start of the third quarter. "We're 0-2 and down at half."
Things didn't get better for the Lions
During halftime, the Lions were down 10-0 and struggling against the banged-up Ravens. The second half turned out to be even more painful.
The Detroit offense finally started getting traction in the third quarter and took a 17-16 lead late in the fourth quarter. The defense was on the brink of snuffing out the Ravens' final drive, pushing it to fourth-and-19 in Baltimore territory and less than 30 seconds left, but then Lamar Jackson completed a 36-yard pass to reach midfield.
What followed was historic and extremely Lions. The officials missed a clear delay-of-game penalty, then Ravens all-everything kicker Justin Tucker hit the crossbar on an NFL-record 66-yard field goal attempt ... and watched it go in.
The 19-17 loss knocked the Lions down to 0-3, but at least they've got the Chicago Bears next week.