NFL commissioner Goodell challenges Detroit to break draft attendance record in 2024

Nolan Bianchi
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit — Well, the gauntlet has been thrown.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday spoke at the Lions’ 2024 NFL Draft celebration event in Campus Martius Park and challenged the community to break the attendance record set by Nashville in 2019.

“Just so you know, Nashville hosted a few years ago and had 600,000 people in those three days at the draft,” Goodell said.

“So you have your challenge, Detroit.”

From left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shakes hands with Lions owner Sheila Hamp at the 2024 NFL Draft celebration Thursday at Campus Martius Park in Detroit.

Among the other speakers at the event were Lions owner Sheila Hamp, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Wayne County executive Warren C. Evans and NFL analyst Charles Davis.

Detroit will be the 13th city to host the NFL Draft. Goodell credited the leaders on hand with bringing the draft to Detroit. Goodell estimated the draft will bring an economic impact of $200 million to the city — as well as “incalculable” media exposure — and stated that the NFL will invest $1 million back into Detroit for its efforts.

Hamp, whose introduction garnered one of the biggest rounds of applause, said that both Detroit and the Lions organization have been making an effort to secure a draft “for the last few years.”

“Our pitch to the league centered on our multi-generational fanbase and the dedication and love our fans have for the Lions, the NFL, and the game of football,” Hamp said. “We’re excited to show the football world the passion, the partnership, the progress that has always defined Detroit, and it is the driving force for the future of our city.”

“It’s a passion and dedication of all of you that will bring this to life and put Detroit on the big stage,” Goodell said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to highlight the resurgence of your city and make sure that the things that are being done here are known.”

An interactive draft display in Campus Martius Park was unveiled during the event, which opened with a video under the theme “The Pick is In.” Former players Jason Hanson and Lomas Brown were present to take photographs with fans.

Following the NCAA Wrestling Championships this past March at Little Caesars Arena, Duggan pointed to the number of big events scheduled to take place in Detroit in 2024 and said he’s hopeful this is just the beginning.

“Every time somebody visits this city, they say, ‘I can’t believe this is what Detroit looks like.’ This isn’t your image,” Duggan said. “This is what we need to do. We need to get people to come here and experience it, because you can’t explain it. And we’re going to get hundreds of thousands of people come here and experience it in 2024. It’s a great thing.

“Every time you impress people around the country, you start to be in conversations, and that’s all I want. You give me a chance to compete for our company, and we’ll win our share, so it’ll be great.”

Detroit hosted the Super Bowl in 2006 and the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball championships in 2009. Duggan added that one of his next goals is to NFL’s biggest game back to the Motor City.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell stops to have a photo with former Lions players Jason Hanson, left, and Lomas Brown, right, at the 2024 NFL Draft celebration Thursday at Campus Martius Park in Detroit.

“We’ll get it some day. You’ve got a lot of cities compete every year, but it’s been 15-16 years. We’re going to keep competing until we get it back in the rotation,” Duggan said. “We’ll get the Super Bowl back, we’ll get the Final Four back. We’re going to keep at it until we get there.”

Both Whitmer and Gilchrist II took time during their remarks to address the April 4 killing of unarmed 26-year-old Black man Patrick Lyoya, which took place at the hands of a police officer during traffic stop in Grand Rapids.

“It is our duty as citizens, as elected officials, as community leaders to build a more equitable and just state and nation,” Whitmer said.

Garlin echoed “the responsibility that we have for one another to make sure that we protect and promote life at every opportunity. We’ve seen too many young men who look like me have their lives cut short because of unfortunate encounters with law enforcement. The governor and I are committed to making sure that there is a transparent, expeditious and full investigation as to what happened to Patrick Lyoya.

“And we know that when we move forward together, we will all live and dream together. And this draft represents that.”

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.