For the first time in the modern era, the Detroit Lions are adding cheerleaders.
Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and the New York Giants are now the only teams in the league that do not employ cheerleaders. The Bills once had cheerleaders, but a lawsuit in 2014 led to the Buffalo Jills suspending operations.
The Lions announced the decision to add cheerleaders for the 2016 season on Monday after months of speculation that the franchise would make the move. Team president Rod Wood hinted at it during the team's town hall in March.
"The Ford Family is unwavering in their commitment to improving the Detroit Lions fan experience on and off the field," Wood said in a statement Monday. "After thorough consideration and receiving input from our fans through season ticket member surveys and focus groups, we believe that this is an opportunity to elevate our game day entertainment."
This is a change in stance for the Lions from 2014, when former team president Tom Lewand told MLive the franchise was happy to be one of six teams that did not employ cheerleaders. Now, the Lions are joining the majority of the NFL.
Auditions for the Lions cheerleaders will start June 25 at Ford Field, and a training camp for finalists will happen in mid-July. The inaugural Detroit Lions Cheerleaders will be announced in early August. The team will be coached by Rebecca Girard-Smoker. Girard-Smoker used to be the director for the Detroit Pistons' dance team.
"We have maintained all along that if we added cheerleaders it would be done the right way and hiring Rebecca is a great first step," Wood said in a statement. "Her experience locally and nationally will ensure that Detroit Lions cheerleaders will be great representatives of our team as well as ambassadors to the community."