Football has been a part of Thanksgiving since 1876, when the Intercollegiate Football Association held its championship on Thanksgiving Day. By 1893, football had become a holiday tradition, prompting the New York Herald to declare it the official holiday for watching football.
The NFL played its first Thanksgiving Day game in 1920, when the Akron Pros defeated the Canton Bulldogs 7 – 0. That game featured Fritz Pollard, the NFL’s first African-American quarterback and Native American star Jim Thorpe.
Since 1934, the Detroit Lions have played in the featured NFL Thanksgiving Day Game. The 1934 game featured the Detroit Lions against the Chicago Bears, and was played at the University of Detroit Stadium. The Bears won 19 – 16.
The 1934 game also was the NFL’s first national radio broadcast.
The NFL Thanksgiving Day game really took off in 1950, when the Lions took on the Green Bay Packers. The Packers and Lions would meet on Thanksgiving every year from 1950 to 1963.
Today, the NFL features two Thanksgiving Day games, with one featuring the Lions, and the others, the Dallas Cowboys.