Should Bills fans believe Jon Bon Jovi?
July, 20, 2014
By Mike Rodak | ESPN.com
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- As the Buffalo Bills are set to hold their first training camp practice Sunday, the wheels continue to turn on the sale of the franchise.
The latest update came Saturday evening from the Toronto Sun, which reported that a Toronto-based bidding group that includes rock star Jon Bon Jovi will tell the trust handling the sale that it intends to keep the team in Western New York.
The overwhelming response from Bills fans has been, "Should we believe them?"
Bon Jovi and Larry Tanenbaum, CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, have never publicly declared any of their intentions. However, the assumption has been that MLSE, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors, would have its sights set on moving the Bills to Toronto.
Yet, as has been mentioned repetitively since the early stages of the sale process, relocating the Bills before 2020 would require clearing extraordinary legal hurdles, and even then NFL owners would have to approve the uprooting of one of their clubs.
If Bon Jovi's group wins the bidding, it knows it will have to stay in the Buffalo area through at least the 2019 season. Even hinting at relocation at this point would be a public relations disaster for the Toronto-based group.
That's why Bills fans should take this latest report with a grain of salt.
Much can change between now and 2020, when there is a one-time out clause in the Bills' stadium lease. At that point, any owner -- whether it's Bon Jovi, Terry Pegula, Donald Trump or anyone else -- can move the team by paying a $28 million penalty and gaining the NFL's stamp of approval.
What is said in 2014 won't matter.
Again, Bon Jovi and Tanenbaum deserve some benefit of the doubt, as they have never said they want to move the team; that's simply been an assumption. But if they want to truly convince Bills fans that they're here to stay, it will take more than this.
Should the Toronto-based group win the bidding and eventually own the team, a rock-solid commitment to Western New York would come through cooperating with Erie County and New York state on a new stadium or significant renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Just as the Bills' most recent stadium lease has protected the team's short-term future, a new or upgraded venue -- with a new lease -- will be the key to their long-term standing in the region.
Until then, Bills fans shouldn't believe everything they're told.