Lions pay tribute to Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson; fans boo ownership
Detroit — The Detroit Lions could have used Calvin Johnson in uniform, but they settled for the opportunity to honor the recently inducted Hall of Fame receiver at halftime of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The ceremony, presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was marred by loud booing from the crowd at Ford Field. Owner Sheila Ford Hamp was drowned out as she attempted to give remarks.
Johnson was introduced by Dennis Nash, who chairs the Hall's Board of Trustees. Hamp also made some comments, but the fans muffled her words. Johnson gestured for the crowd to relent.
"It’s an honor to represent excellence, everything the Hall of Fame stands for," Johnson said. "It’s an honor to represent Detroit. I love you guys. ... I love you guys, love the energy y’all brought every single game. I miss you guys. I look forward to great things in the future here in Detroit."
Despite the Ford Field appearance, Johnson remains at odds with the Lions. In a recent interview, he elaborated on what is needed to rectify his longstanding grudge with the franchise, stemming from the team reclaiming $1.6 million of his signing bonus after he announced his retirement in 2016.
“I’m not saying they got to repay me the $1.6 (million) all up front, but they need to figure out a way to do it, and not have me work for it, because I already did the work for it.”
Johnson received his Hall of Fame ring in the ceremony. He was inducted into the Hall last month.
The ring, created by Kay Jewelers, includes 1.75 carats of diamonds and was personally customized for the player. A likeness of his Hall of Fame bust, along with his position and years he played for the Lions appear on one side, while “Johnson, the Pro Football Hall of Fame logo and “Class of 2021” are included on the other.
Johnson's Hall of Fame bust was also on display in the stadium's concourse during the game, while video tributes played throughout the contest.
The No. 2 pick in the 2007, Johnson spent his entire nine-year career with the Lions, breaking nearly every franchise receiving record during that time. He finished with 731 receptions for 11,619 and 83 touchdowns. His 1,964 yards in 2012 remain the NFL's single-season record.
In addition to Johnson, Alex Karras was also honored before the game. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2020 and posthumously enshrined this year.
Karras spent his entire 12-year career with the Lions after being drafted by the franchise in the first round in 1958. With the Lions, Karras was selected a first-team All-Pro four times, and was named to the All-Decade Team of the 1960s by the Hall of Fame.
Before sacks became an official stat, Karras terrorized opposing quarterbacks as a member of Detroit's heralded "Fearsome Foursome" front. In 2018, the franchise added him to their Pride of the Lions, along with longtime linemate Roger Brown.
After his career, Karras went on to have a successful acting career, including roles in “Blazing Saddles” and the television show “Webster.” He died in October 2012.
Brown, who passed away in September, was honored with a moment of silence before the game.