Lions president says cheerleaders add to game environment

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions President Rod Wood cited fan feedback as a driving force behind the team's decision to add cheerleaders this season.

Wood says owner Martha Ford was involved in the decision, which the Lions announced Monday. Although most NFL franchises have cheerleaders, the Lions have gone without them for much of their history.

''(Ford) was involved along with all of her children,'' Wood said before practice Tuesday, the first day of Detroit's mandatory minicamp.

''It was something that I approached them about several months ago after feedback from fans and end-of-the-year surveys and focus groups, and asked if they'd be interested in hearing an official proposal on the merits of it. And they said yes, and so we've done a number of meetings on it, and that's when we made the decision to go forward.''

A team spokesman said the Lions haven't had cheerleaders since the 1974 season, when Detroit's home field was Tiger Stadium. The Lions later had high school cheerleaders perform at the Pontiac Silverdome. They have chosen not to have cheerleaders in the past at Ford Field, their home since 2002.

''One of the things clearly that we have to do is create a great in-game environment, and having cheerleaders added to that along with many other things we're considering, including working on our Wi-Fi,'' Wood said.

Wood was appointed president of the Lions in November during a front office shakeup after the team's poor start last season. Wood had worked closely with the Ford family in his role as president and CEO of Ford Estates.

Wood says Detroit's cheerleaders will be part-time employees, and they'll be employed by a separate organization - not directly through the team.

''We've talked to the teams that've had cheerleaders, teams that have recently added them, how they incorporated them into their in-game presentation,'' Wood said.

''We've interfaced with a couple teams in particular that gave us the benefit of some of their documentation on how they've hired the cheerleaders, how they've been compensated.

''And we're trying to follow the best practices across the whole league so that we don't get tripped up by some of the things the other teams have had happen in terms of wage disputes, etc.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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