Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Livin’ on a prayer isn’t part of the plan for Buffalo Bills fans.
Not content to sit back and hope for the best as their beloved NFL team is sold, they are doing everything they can to influence the next owner to keep the franchise in Buffalo.
That includes trying to raise millions of dollars as an incentive to keep the team where it is, circulating petitions and even organizing a ban on Bon Jovi music because the band’s frontman is rumored to want to buy the team and move it to Canada.
“It’s nothing personal,” said Charles Pellien, one of four fans who came up with the Bon Jovi boycott last month. “If Santa Claus was coming to Buffalo and telling us he was going to take our team to the North Pole, we would be boycotting Santa Claus.”
The flurry of activity began soon after the March death of owner Ralph Wilson, whose wishes to have the team sold rather than passed onto his family raised the possibility of the Bills leaving their home of more than 50 years. Toronto and Los Angeles are potential landing spots because owners could make more money than in Buffalo, the NFL’s second-smallest market.
Fans want to make as much noise as possible, worried that staying silent while the team changes hands could register as indifference, a trait they say contributed to the Cleveland Browns’ bolt to Baltimore after the 1995 season.
“They just thought somebody would do something, and there was no way it could ever be a reality that the team could move,” said Matt Sabuda, a real estate investor and director of the Buffalo Fan Alliance. “The last thing we’d want to see in Buffalo is a repeat of that scenario.”
Sabuda’s group has plans to tap legions of Buffalo ex-pats and others for more than $100 million in no-interest financing to help a Buffalo-committed new owner. The group estimates the fan donations could save a new owner $8 million to $15 million a year in interest — the equivalent of another full level of luxury suites — and make moving from small-market Buffalo unnecessary.