Every year, on August 10, World Lion Day casts a spotlight on these awe-inspiring animals, highlighting their significance and rallying the global community to protect their existence.

Dan Campbell wanted a live Lion on the sideline

As a sports fan, I am an avid reader of sports news so I didn’t miss the recent news buzz about the head coach of the Detroit Lions commenting that he had asked the team’s owner and the NFL if he could have an actual Lion. As the team’s pet he wanted it to show up for practice and be on the sidelines for games, saying he would parade it around on a large chain and take good care of it.

Thankfully the NFL rejected his idea but I was actually surprised that the sports news outlets, who picked up the story, led with how awesome and cool that would be.

I was inspired to write this blog because I guess I was in shock at the complete lack of awareness of the plight of endangered wildlife.

In my fantasy football reality the coach would have started his new job by saying that the team is going to be fierce, powerful and rule the NFL ecosystem, just like our team mascot does in their habitat. He would have continued, the Detroit Lions will be the king of the football jungle and lead the way, and that as a leaders we take care of everyone in the organization including our team mascot, which is facing possible extinction in the wild. As a coach and a team, the knowledge of the peril lions are in would lead the organization to take an active role in the conservation of lions and work with the NFL to get involved as well.

I am 62 years old and my 20 year old self would probably have agreed with how cool it would be to have an actual Lion on the sidelines or any animal mascot for that matter. But now as we live in an age of mass extinction and a biodiversity crisis among wildlife species (we have lost 70 percent of vertebrae animals in the last 50 years) I am afraid I can’t support this idea. In fact I would argue that those who can make a real difference must use their voice to help and do what they can to raise awareness with their massive fan base to change the inevitable path these magnificent animals are on.

Let’s remember that the word ‘mascot’ comes from the French term ‘mascotte’ meaning lucky charm, but life is not so lucky for many mascots. This isn’t the time for a team pet. Coaches, players and teams can use their profiles and influence to help tackle the extinction crisis. It’s time to take biodiversity loss and the extinction crisis personally.