When founder and owner of the Buffalo Bills Ralph Wilson passed away last month, at the age of 95, it placed the future of the franchise in jeopardy. Not to the degree of closure — the NFL is such an absurd moneymaking machine that a team can pull in money hand over fist anywhere — but certainly the idea of a Buffalo team remaining in Western New York became less of a certainty than it had been during Wilson’s lifetime. When Donald Trump put his hat into the ring for ownership earlier this year, the move was derided as little more than a publicity stunt, one summed up by Bloomberg View as “Trump always says ‘maybe’ before he says ‘no.’”
But Donald Trump hasn’t gone away. Amid his recent “will he or won’t he” bid for the governorship of New York and fresh off years of loudly questioning President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Trump has maintained a healthy interest in professional sports, and according to Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy, “He has made it quite clear that if he purchases the team, he intends to keep it in Buffalo, and he believes he’s the only owner or ownership group who’d come forward and say that.”
Trump told The Buffalo News that he would love to purchase the team and that, “if I can do it, I’m keeping it in Buffalo.” He also suggested that the current location was more practical for him. “It’s easier for me to go to Buffalo than any other place,” Trump said. “Where am I going to move it, some place on the other side of the country, where I have to travel for five hours?”
The Bills, who are valued at around $800 million, would not be Trump’s first foray into professional football — he bought the U.S. Football League’s New Jersey Generals in 1983 and spearheaded an antitrust suit against the NFL. The USFL won exactly $3 dollars in the lawsuit (enough to buy “coffee and a danish,” according to to the article), and folded in 1985.
“I think the NFL owners respected me for it because I took a dead league and made it hot,” Trump told The Buffalo News. “And if I hadn’t gotten involved, they wouldn’t have lasted another season. The NFL owners that I know and are very honest about it, they’ll tell you I did a good job and they have respect for me.”
The NFL ownership, who put every potential owner or ownership group up against a vote (and made headlines when their antipathy forced a prospective group to drop conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh in 2009), could vote on the sale of the Bills franchise as early as October — when they are next scheduled to meet.