Lions fans step up donations to say thank you to quarterback Matthew Stafford

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Some burn jerseys. 

Others display their vitriol in written form on social media.

But every once in a while, something good comes out of the news that a franchise cornerstone has requested a trade. Such was the case this weekend, as reports of quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions mutually deciding to part ways hit social media. 

Matthew Stafford, right, and wife Kelly

As the details trickled in on Saturday and Sunday, so too did an influx of donations to the Acoustic Neuroma Association (ANA). There was a theme within the donation amount: $9.

“I was amazed,” said Melissa Baumbick, ANA manager of outreach and development.

“It just kind of started blowing up. I looked, and saw that an article saying that Detroit Lions fans were trying to flood Matthew Stafford’s favorite charity with donations, in honor of the rumors or information about him being traded.”

Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous tumor that develops along the main nerve of the brain and inner ear. A diagnosis can leave lasting effects that include hearing loss and unsteadiness. 

It’s also a condition that the Stafford family is far too familiar with. Stafford’s wife Kelly in 2019 was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma, leading to months of treatment and a surgery — which had potential to cause hearing loss and facial paralysis — to remove the tumor. 

The Staffords have done their part to spread the word, even before this past weekend. Matthew Stafford has partnered with the ANA for the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” initiative in the past two seasons, a gesture supplemented by a video of him revealing the cleats to Kelly that made many rounds on social media.

Kelly’s journey and Matthew’s tenure in Detroit combined this weekend to make a real difference in that community. By Monday afternoon, 1,300 donors had surpassed $13,000 in donations, a number that continues to climb as word of the impromptu initiative spreads.

“ANA is a very rare condition, so many times, when people are diagnosed, they’ve never heard of it,” Baumbick said.

“The exposure and the awareness that’s by someone who does have a large following on Instagram, or is very well-known by the media … is incredibly important to our organization and our people who are dealing with acoustic neuroma.”

The origin of this campaign can be tracked back to a Reddit post on r/detroitlions from Saturday night, in which user u/TaddyBear14 recommended that Lions fans rally up to show their thanks.

“(Stafford) was a class act of a QB for us and was always good to Detroit,” the account said. “I think we should pay him back.”

In the comment section, user u/JComer93 helped nail down the ANA as a meaningful place for Lions fans to send their contributions. Now, there are almost 190 comments, with most of them containing the phrase “Donated 9” in some way or another.

It’s also not the first time that football fans have come together for a great cause on Reddit. 

Buffalo Bills fans donated to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton helped clinch Buffalo’s first playoff berth in 18 years by beating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 of the 2017 season. 

“Bills Mafia” mustered up more than $290,000 in donations for Lamar Jackson’s favorite charity, Blessings in a Backpack, as a consolation prize for Buffalo knocking Baltimore out of the playoffs just last week. 

And now, this.

“(Matthew and Kelly) seem to very well-loved and connected, right at the heart of their community,” Baumbick said. “That’s done a lot for the people who are dealing with this condition.”

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.