Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

Hi there! I'm Kimberly Yow, a passionate journalist with a deep love for alternative rock. Combining my two passions, I've found my dream job. Join me on this exciting journey as I explore the world of journalism and rock music.

Thanksgiving Day football: How the sport became a staple of turkey day

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

For many American families, a successful Thanksgiving is filled with loved ones around the table, turkey as a centerpiece and NFL games taking over every TV in the house.

Football has been a popular Thanksgiving tradition for many years, from amateur leagues to the pros. Families and friends even gather the morning of Thanksgiving for a quick pick-up game of flag, tag or tackle football. In one way or another, football is intertwined with Turkey Day festivities.

Here’s more insight into how Thanksgiving Day football became a long-lasting tradition.

THANKSGIVING-THEMED EPISODES FROM POPULAR TV SHOWS TO WATCH ON TURKEY DAY

NFL games on Thanksgiving Day started the same year the league was organized. There were several teams that played on the holiday in 1920, including the Akron Pros vs the Canton Bulldogs, the Elyria Athletics vs the Columbus Panhandles and the Dayton Triangles vs the Detroit Heralds, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of these teams, five out of the six were professional teams from Ohio.

However, the tradition of game day on Thanksgiving was first seen at the collegiate level. The first college game in history played on Thanksgiving Day was on Nov. 30, 1876, when Ivy League rivals, Yale and Princeton, played one another. Yale beat Princeton 2-0.

THANKSGIVING HISTORY: TRADITION AND ORGINS, WHERE DID IT BEGIN?

NFL teams first began playing on Thanksgiving Day to boost the popularity of the sport and used it as an opportunity for teams to attract more fans.

The tradition was first established by Detroit Lions owner George A. Richards in 1934, who intended to recruit more fans to the franchise. He decided the Lions would play on the holiday. 

Since then, the tradition has grown as a football frenzy, causing the game to become the Thanksgiving staple that it is today.

THANKSGIVING QUIZ! HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THESE SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT THE ANNUAL HOLIDAY?

The two teams that traditionally play on Thanksgiving Day are the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. They are both highly regarded as Thanksgiving Day teams and have both accrued an enthusiastic fan base through the years.

The Lions first started hosting an annual game in 1934 and have played nearly every year since. NFL games were paused from 1939 through 1944 due to World War II.

In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys became the second team to traditionally play on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys have played almost every Thanksgiving since 1966, except for 1975 and 1977. Instead, the NFL awarded the St. Louis Cardinals with games on Thanksgiving Day both years to increase fanbases of their franchise.

Along with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, there is one other game that takes place on Thanksgiving. A third game was added to the lineup in 2006 and is awarded to different teams every year.

Almost every NFL team has played a Thanksgiving game, making for many memorable moments over the years. The only team that has never played a Thanksgiving game is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

More to explorer