Mike Ilitch Stanley Cup

Since Detroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch died this past Friday, the sporting world — including athletes or journalists — have paid their respects to the man in charge of two major franchises.

In the wake of Ilitch’s passing, more information has surfaced about this Detroit icon. One of the most striking and telling details about Ilitch recently came out. We now know that he helped pay Rosa Parks’ rent after the civil rights icon was robbed and assaulted in 1994.

This information became public thanks to federal judge and Detroit native Damon Keith.

Keith, himself an important legal figure in the civil rights movement, worked to find Parks a new, safer apartment at the Riverfront Apartments in Detroit, according to the Sports Business Daily.

Ilitch read the story in the newspaper and called Keith, offering to pay for Parks’ housing indefinitely. With no fanfare, Ilitch continued paying for the apartment until Parks died in 2005, Keith said.

The entire episode was made public in 2014 in a story from Sports Business Daily. Keith even showed the reporter a copy of a 1994 check for $2,000 from Little Caesars Enterprises to Riverfront Apartments.

As Keith points out, this is just one way Ilitch showed his love for Detroit.

“You’ll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Mike and (his wife) Marian had the courage to lose sight of the shore and discover new oceans,” Keith said.
“They kept pushing Detroit, and had it not been for them, I am saying, Detroit would not be in the renaissance that they’re in now.”

With the stories and signs of respect for Ilitch continuing to pour in, his love for Detroit is undeniable. There aren’t a lot of people that can say they’ve stuck with Detroit. Ilitch is one you can surely say did. And this story about how he helped Parks without fanfare is certainly more evidence of his character. We can only hope others follow in Ilitch’s footsteps.