When certain Lions players began kneeling during the national anthem in 2017, then-owner Martha Ford asked the team to stand as one. In exchange, she offered to support charitable causes of the players' choosing in their fight against social injustice.
If players kneel this season, new principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp won't stop them.
"First of all, I think the understanding is completely different now," Hamp said in her introductory press conference Tuesday. "I think most people really understand what the kneeling was all about. I know that the commissioner has said, and I completely agree, we support our players’ right to peaceful protest, we support the first amendment.
"I think this has really, finally – thank goodness – gotten national attention that this is a serious problem. And we as an organization plan to listen to our players and support them anyway we can."
Several NFL players have already indicated their intention to kneel this season, in light of the ongoing protests against police brutality and racial inequality. That includes Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara and 2019 first overall pick Kyler Murray. It also includes Texans head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien.
The Lions have not revealed their plans to protest, but they plan to come up with something as a team.
Asked if she and the rest of the Ford family would join the players on the field if they decide to kneel, Hamp said it wouldn't be possible. But she reiterated that she supports whatever the players choose to do.
"We’re not down on the field when the game begins, so I will be watching from the stands. That’s where we are. As I say, we support our players’ right to peaceful protest, however that comes out – and peaceful is the key word. We won’t be kneeling on the field, no, but we would support them."
Colin Kaepernick first took a knee three years ago, and he hasn't played a snap in the NFL since. Many believe the owners blackballed him from the league. But as Hamp referenced, the conversation around kneeling has progressed significantly.
Meanwhile, Kaepernick's odds of making an NFL return have improved.
Asked if she'd be in favor of the Lions pursuing Kaepernick as a free agent, Hamp said, " If our coaches and our general manager all thought it was a good idea to bring him in, I would completely support that."