Why Does The NFL Always Play On Thanksgiving?

The NFL's tradition of having games on Thanksgiving dates back to the 1930s.
Posted at 11:45 AM, Nov 20, 2017

Besides overeating and trying to avoid political discussions with family, watching NFL football is one of America's go-to Thanksgiving activities.

But why does the NFL play on Thanksgiving? And why is it always the same two teams — the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys?

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The tradition dates back to 1934. The Lions had just moved from Portsmouth, Ohio, and owner G.A. Richards wanted to boost lagging attendance for his club, so he announced a Thanksgiving Day game. With everyone home for the holiday, the game was a sellout.

The game was also broadcast nationally on the radio, making the Lions' Thanksgiving game a country-wide tradition every year since it came back from hiatus after World War II.

The Cowboys were a little later to the Thanksgiving party. In 1966, America's team was just a few seasons old and wanted to boost its profile with a national audience like the Lions had. 

So when the NFL announced it wanted another Thanksgiving game, general manager Tex Schramm accepted. The Cowboys' first Thanksgiving game was also a sellout, and the tradition stuck permanently after 1978. 

In 2006, the NFL decided to open up the tradition and introduced a third game with no set team, so every team had a chance to host a Thanksgiving game. Because six hours of football in one day just isn't enough.