The Detroit Lions are a professional football team that plays in the National Football Conference North division. The team is the NFL member since 1930. It was founded in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio. Initially, the franchise was named the Portsmouth Spartans. It officially joined the National Football League on July 12, 1930. Despite obvious success within the NFL, the Portsmouth Spartans were unable to survive during the Great Depression, whose devastating effects were most disastrous for small cities like Portsmouth.
Low revenue and other financial difficulties forced the owners to sell the franchise to a group of investors headed by George A. Richards, the Detroit radio station executive director. They paid $795,208 to cover the team’s debts and $15,000 NFL franchise fee. After purchasing the team in 1934, George A. Richards relocated it to Detroit, Michigan. The team finished its inaugural season in second place in the Western division. In 1940, the franchise was sold to Chicago department store executive Fred Mandel for $225,000. Eight years later, in 1958, the club went to Edwin J. Anderson and Lyle Fife, who owned it until 1964. At the end of November 1963, William Clay Ford Jr., the former vice-chairman of the Ford Motor Company, became the Lions’ sole owner when he purchased control shares of the team’s stock for $4.5 million. In 2014, the controlling interest in the Detroit Lions passed to Martha Firestone Ford.
The history of the team name is quite interesting since few NFL members changed their names. Originally, it was called Portsmouth Spartans to honor their hometown. After relocating to Detroit, George A. Richards renamed the Detroit Lions team a nod to the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise. The new owner explained that the club would be the king of the league, as the lion is a king of the jungle. The Lions delivered on that promise by winning their first NFL Championship in 1935.
Meaning and History
All Detroit Lions logos feature the image of a lion, which has a double meaning. First, it is a kind of compliment to the Detroit Tigers baseball team. Second, the owners hope that the monarch of the jungle will become the king on the NFL playing fields.
1929 – 1933
Since the team’s initial name was the Portsmouth Spartans, the logo included two wordmarks. The upper part of the logo was presented with beige-scripted “PORTSMOUTH” in capital letters trimmed with a black border. The “SPARTANS” in black with the golden-beige border was placed below. It was also written in capital letters, yet they were slightly expanded to acquire an exact rectangular shape.
1952 – 1960
The first Lion logotype included a lion, of course, and a football player holding a ball. Both of them demonstrated decisiveness, aspiration, and immediate readiness for action. The beast opened the mouth to roar. Its belly was pressed to the ground as if it was preparing to jump. The football player was also leaning forward as waiting for the signal to attack. He was wearing a red T-shirt, blue pants and a helmet. Both figures were outlined in black.
1961 – 1969
In 1961, the logo became much simpler, both in design and in the color scheme. The new logo featured a minimalistic white lion with a thin blue outline and two wide stripes (blue and grey) in the background. The color palette of the given logo was changed dramatically, being switched to a white-blue spectrum. The lion’s belly was still pressed to the ground. This pose symbolized its singleness of purpose and readiness for a burst of energy. Besides, the wild beast was drawn lean and fit to evidence the players’ perfect physical shape. The lion was depicted in full length with the tail bent forward, which is also an allegory of orientation towards the goal.
1970 – 2002
The logo of this era was unique since, in 1970, the iconic leaping lion appeared in the team logo for the first time. The creative staff radically redesigned the previous logo. The beast was portrayed in a jump: its hind paws were on the ground, while its forepaws were in the air. Its posture made a dynamic impression. At the same time, the lion had no facial features, just muzzle without eyes, mouth, and nose that caught schematically. The figure had a white outline and one more blue outline around it.
2003 – 2008
This logo was tweaked in 2003, yet it underwent slight alterations. It still featured a fierce leaping lion with a lush mane. As before, the beast’s muzzle had no obvious shape: just schematic mouth and nose hard to guess. Lion’s posture emphasized the aggressive side of the game, power, and desire to offend. The beast much resembled the heraldic lion rampant as depicted in profile standing erect with forepaws raised. The only difference from the previous version was a thick black outline instead of blue.
2009 – 2016
In 2009, the leaping blue lion acquired a more prominent shape. Now paws, mane, face, and torso were seen. Designers attempted to make it look much more realistic. Besides, the lion had fangs, which seemed extremely effective tools for threatening the enemies. The eye, mane, and tail elements were drawn as well. A fierce character was contoured in white and then in black.
2017 – present
The 2017 Detroit Lions logo compare to the prior one has a sharper look. Strands in the flowing mane and animal’s eye are visible. The hind legs are smaller than the forelegs, which remained massive. It is a perfect allusion to the king of the jungle – agile, fierce, and strong. The black outline is toned down to a light grey color.