Despite great success on the field, poor revenues and the Great Depression threatened the Spartans’ survival. In 1934, a group led by Detroit radio executive George Richards (owner of Detroit’s powerful WJR) bought the financially struggling Spartans and moved them to Detroit and renamed the team the Detroit Lions, as a nod to the Detroit Tigers. He also said that the lion was the monarch of the jungle, and he intended for his team to be the monarch of the NFL.

Through Richards’ radio connections, the Lions were able to play a Thanksgiving Day game in their first season in Detroit, a tradition that continues to this day.