Why Does The NFL Always Play On Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving NFL

Football & Family: A Thanksgiving Tradition

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends and give thanks for all the blessings in their lives. For some, it is also a time to watch football. Football has been a part of holiday celebrations since the early 1900s when professional and college teams began staging games on that holiday.

History Behind The NFL On Thanksgiving

Have you ever wondered why the National Football League (NFL) plays games this holiday? It turns out that there is a long history behind this tradition. The first Thanksgiving Day football game was played in 1876 between Yale and Princeton, two of the nation’s top college teams. The game proved so popular that others, including the first professional game in 1902, soon followed it.

In 1934, the Detroit Lions began hosting an annual Thanksgiving game when they took on the Chicago Bears, further solidifying the holiday’s connection to football. Today, the NFL continues to play games on the holiday to bring families together and give fans something to enjoy on a day off from work or school.

It’s Great For Business

In recent years, the National Football League has capitalized on the popularity of Thanksgiving Day football by scheduling a slate of games featuring some of the league’s most popular teams. For many fans, watching football on Thanksgiving has become as much of a tradition as turkey and pumpkin pie.

And while some might argue that football takes away from the meaning of the holiday, for others, it is simply one more way to enjoy time with family and friends.

Why Does It Stick? 

Over time, this tradition became cemented into American culture as an unmissable event for players and fans. Today, you can find multiple games airing throughout the day on networks like Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN.

And while some may argue that football isn’t necessarily “family-friendly,” there is no denying its popularity among Americans. With an estimated 42 million people watching the New York Giants Vs. Dallas Cowboys in 2022.


Whether you’re watching at home with family or rooting for your favorite team in person at a stadium, there is no denying that watching an NFL game on Thanksgiving has become a big part of American culture. With its deep roots in history dating back to 1934, it’s easy to see why this annual event continues to draw such huge ratings each year.