What Is The Spirit Of Detroit In The Lions Jersey?

The Spirit of Detroit statue has a long history as a beloved symbol of Detroit and its people. The statue was commissioned in 1955 to represent the persevering spirit and hope of the city. Designed by sculptor Marshall Fredericks, it depicts a seated man holding a gilt bronze sphere representing the spirit of Detroit. The large 26-foot bronze statue was unveiled in 1958 and has since become an iconic landmark in downtown Detroit outside of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

the spirit of detroit statue was commissioned in 1955 as a symbol of the city's resilience.

In recent decades, Spirit of Detroit has taken on a new tradition – wearing a Detroit Lions football jersey when the team makes the playoffs or plays in important games. This started in the late 1980s when fans began playfully dressing the statue to rally support for the Lions. It has now become a symbol of unity, hope and pride for Lions fans. When the statue wears a Honolulu blue jersey with the Lions logo, it represents the fighting spirit of Detroit and the city coming together to cheer on its beloved football team.

The tradition resonates with Detroiters because the statue embodies the soul of the city. Putting a Lions jersey on it allows fans to transfer their energy and hopes onto this civic symbol. The strength and resilience it represents seems to channel good fortune onto the football team. Though initially a lighthearted gesture, seeing the Spirit of Detroit decked out in Lions gear has become a meaningful ritual that fans look forward to every time their team sees success.

History of the Spirit of Detroit Statue

The Spirit of Detroit statue was created in 1955 by sculptor Marshall Fredericks (“Spirit of Detroit, The”, n.d.). It was installed outside of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center and serves as a symbol of Detroit (“Spirit of Detroit”, n.d.). The 26-foot bronze statue depicts a large seated figure holding a family in its arms. It represents the city’s resilience and rebirth after World War II, embodying the spirit of its people.

the tradition of putting a lions jersey on the statue started in the late 1980s as a way for fans to show their support.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Detroit Community Arts Commission as part of an urban renewal project. Fredericks designed it to symbolize the connections between God, man, and family while honoring the city’s labor force. After being unveiled in 1958, it quickly became an iconic part of Detroit’s landscape (“Spirit of Detroit, The”, n.d.).

Tradition of Putting a Lions Jersey on the Statue

The tradition of dressing the Spirit of Detroit statue in a Lions jersey started in the late 1970s during a winning season for the team according to this article. Fans would put a Lions jersey on the statue to represent the excitement and pride the city felt in the football team. This practice usually occurs before big games when the Lions are having a strong season and fans want to show their support.

Placing the jersey on the prominent downtown statue shows how important the Lions are to Detroit’s identity and culture. As this article explains, the jersey transforms the statue into a symbol of the city’s passion for their team.

Meaning Behind the Jersey

The tradition of putting a Lions jersey on the Spirit of Detroit statue represents the passion that Detroiters have for football and their home team (1). It started as a way for fans to show their excitement and unite behind the Lions during the playoffs or important games. Over time, it has become a ritual that demonstrates the city’s unwavering pride in the Lions, win or lose.

More broadly, dressing the iconic statue in Lions gear reflects the resilient spirit of Detroit and its people. Despite hard economic times, Detroit continues to rally around its beloved football franchise as a symbol of hope. As the prominent artwork standing tall outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, seeing the Spirit of Detroit sporting Honolulu blue and silver serves as a reminder of the city’s fighting spirit and civic pride (2).

While the jersey is occasionally placed on the statue as a silly prank, it largely carries deeper meaning for Detroiters. The Lions are part of the city’s cultural fabric, and the Spirit of Detroit wearing the team’s colors visibly conveys that intimate bond. It exemplifies the collective energy Detroiters feel during an important Lions game or achievement, uniting them in their steadfast support (3).

1. https://www.clickondetroit.com/sports/2024/01/08/spirit-of-detroit-statue-wears-lions-jersey-as-team-begins-playoff-run/

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spirit_of_Detroit

3. https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/11/27/spirit-detroit-jerseys/898480001/

Notable Examples

The Spirit of Detroit statue has been decked out in a Lions jersey over the years before important playoff games to rally support and bring good luck. In 2014, a jersey was put on the statue before the Lions’ Wild Card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys[1]. The Lions went on to lose that game, but the tradition has lived on.

Another notable example was in 2021 when the jersey was placed on the statue after the Lions’ dramatic last-second win over the Minnesota Vikings[2]. This big upset over a division rival energized fans during a otherwise disappointing season. The jersey aims to keep that momentum going into the playoffs.

At times, the jersey has also been used to inspire the team during long losing streaks and difficult seasons. In 2008, with the Lions on the way to an 0-16 season, the Spirit of Detroit donned a Lions jersey as a rallying cry for the struggling team[3]. While it didn’t change the season’s results, it showed the unwavering passion of Lions fans.

Fan Reactions

When the Spirit of Detroit statue gets its Lions jersey each year, it generates a lot of excitement and reactions from fans across the city. Fans eagerly gather in the days leading up to the jersey placement to catch a glimpse of the moment. Photos and videos are quickly posted across social media, generating a buzz of anticipation for the upcoming NFL season.

In one Facebook post from The Bastards of Brush Street fan group, fans talked about how meaningful the tradition is, stating “Through unwavering determination and hard work, we will defeat our NFC North rivals this year. The Spirit of Detroit embodies the heart and soul of our city.”

The jersey placement ritual has become a way for fans to showcase their Lions pride. It reinvigorates the fanbase and gives them hope that this could be the year their team succeeds. Social media is flooded with photos of fans posing next to the statue after the jersey reveal. The excitement is palpable throughout the city as game day approaches.

Players and Coaches Perspectives

The tradition of placing a Lions jersey on the Spirit of Detroit statue has become a symbolic ritual that coaches and players have remarked on over the years. Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell spoke about seeing the jersey on the statue in 2022, saying “It just fires you up. You can’t help but see it and think, man, this city is really behind us” (Source). The visual reminder of support from Lions fans provides extra motivation for the team.

Star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown commented in 2023, “When we see that jersey on the Spirit, it inspires us. It lets us know that Detroit has our back and believes in this team” (Source). The prominent placement of the Lions jersey shows that the spirit of Detroit is behind the franchise through ups and downs.


Although many Detroiters admire seeing the Spirit of Detroit dressed in Lions gear, some critics argue it is disrespectful to modify the statue without permission from the original sculptor [1]. As a public artwork, some believe it should be preserved in its original form and not altered for commercial purposes like sports marketing. There are also concerns about potential damage or vandalism from attaching a jersey repeatedly over the years [2].

Additionally, some critics say dressing the statue in Lions gear promotes football above other aspects of Detroit’s culture and heritage. They argue the statue was meant to symbolize the city’s spirit of resilience, not commercial sports. While many Detroiters are passionate football fans, others believe putting a Lions jersey on a public monument elevates football too highly compared to other civic priorities and local institutions.


Some argue that putting a Lions jersey on the Spirit of Detroit statue is harmless and all in good fun. They point out that the statue can easily be restored if any damage occurs, so it’s just a temporary tradition with no real consequences (https://sports.yahoo.com/spirit-detroit-transformed-matthew-stafford-235029203.html). There is no evidence thus far that the jerseys have caused any lasting damage or defacement to the bronze sculpture. It’s seen more as a fun way for fans to show their team spirit and excitement in the city of Detroit.

Critics also argue that there are much worse acts of vandalism that could be committed, so a jersey done in the spirit of fandom is relatively benign. The jerseys are not meant to be permanent and can be taken off if needed. Most agree that no harm is intended by the practice, and it’s a creative way to show pride and rally behind the Lions during important games or milestones for the franchise.

In the eyes of supporters, putting a Lions jersey on the iconic Spirit of Detroit statue is a time-honored tradition that brings joy and a sense of community to fans. As long as the jerseys are put on respectfully and not left on indefinitely, most fans see no issue with the practice and argue the benefits outweigh any minor concerns.


In summary, the tradition of placing a Detroit Lions jersey on the Spirit of Detroit statue first began in the late 1990s and has since become a yearly ritual for Lions fans. Each football season, fans make the iconic statue show its support by adorning it with a Honolulu blue jersey displaying the team’s logo. This tradition has become a representation of Detroiters’ immense civic pride and dedication to their beloved football franchise during the fall months.

By continuing this tradition each year, Lions fans showcase the team spirit and camaraderie that brings the city together. It reflects the hope and excitement Detroiters feel at the start of a new NFL season, and their collective desire to will the Lions on to success. Though the team has struggled through many disappointing seasons, the city’s passion remains strong.

As the Lions embark on future seasons, this tradition will likely carry on, with fans making sure the Spirit displays pride in the hometown team. Though the Lions’ performance on the field may fluctuate, Detroiters’ team spirit and love of football is unwavering. Each fall, the Spirit will don Honolulu blue, bringing joy and community to Lions fans.

Similar Posts