ESPN anchor Chris Berman has been fond of saying that nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson learned this weekend that nobody clicks the “donate” button like the Bills Mafia, the hardcore fans of the AFC East team that is now one victory away from a return to the Super Bowl.
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens crash-landed
The Baltimore Ravens’ season ended when the fourth-quarter clock ticked down to zeroes on Saturday in the AFC divisional playoff game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York. Realistically, the Ravens’ chances ended on the last play of the third quarter.
Forced to retreat to the end zone to retrieve an errant snap, quarterback Lamar Jackson was taken down hard by a pair of Bills defenders as he unloaded a throw that drew a flag for intentional grounding. The back of Jackson’s head struck the turf hard, and he did not return to his feet as the officials sorted out the penalty.
Jackson came off the field to be examined by medical staff, and was diagnosed with a concussion that ruled him out of the remainder of the game. The Ravens were unable to mount much of an offense the rest of the way, and Buffalo finished off a 17-3 victory to advance to the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Buffalo Bills fans show respect for Lamar Jackson
The Buffalo Bills’ most hardcore fans have branded themselves as the Bills Mafia. Their Facebook group boasts of 206,000 members, and they love talking about their favorite team before, during, and after games. Downtime is spent posting pictures of families dressed out in Bills attire or offering moral support to members revealing personal setbacks.
Hands down, however, the best trait of the group is the generosity of the individuals. Josh Allen may possess Buffalo’s big arm, but the Bills Mafia is right there with a big heart. So, when Lamar Jackson went down with a concussion in the Jan. 17, 2021, playoff game, they felt moved to respond. A Bills fan poked around online to find a charity with connections to Jackson. Word went out that some donations to the Blessings in a Backpack organization in Baltimore might be appropriate.
The tsunami of support showed up quickly. By midnight on Sunday, a little more than 24 hours after the end of the game, the nonprofit committed to feeding elementary-school children had reported 11,200 donations totaling $290,000.
Buffalo Bills fans have done this before
The generosity that Buffalo Bills fans are showing toward the charity that Lamar Jackson himself helped fund with $25,000 in 2018 is not unprecedented. It comes not long after the Bills Mafia’s most astonishing effort of all.
Shortly after the Buffalo Bills defeated the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 8, 2020, the nation learned that quarterback Josh Allen played the game after learning that his grandmother in California had died.
Allenis the darling of Western New York. Fans there had long craved a suitable replacement for Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, and they were overwhelmed by Allen’s 415 yards and three TDs through the air vs. Seattle. They quickly began donating to Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, reaching about $800,000. Three days after Christmas, a lifelong Bills fan donated $217,000 to push the drive over the $1 million mark.
When former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s mother died during training camp last summer, the Bills Mafia launched another charity fundraiser. Their most famous bit of work began on New Year’s Eve in 2017 when Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton engineered a late rally that beat the Baltimore Ravens and advance the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Bills fans began donating in $17 increments to a children’s charity founded by Dalton and his wife, and they didn’t stop until they reached $450,000. Dalton subsequently donated to a Buffalo charity to show his gratitude.