The decision of New York Senator Charles Schumer to chime in regarding aspects of the league’s G-4 loan program that could hurt the Bills’ efforts to upgrade their stadium (but endorsing aspects of the program that make it harder to move the team) didn’t seem unusual. After all, Schumer has on multiple past occasions found a way to curry voter favor by taking positions conducive to keeping the Bills in Buffalo.
The news that Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured) has hired an expert to advise the state on ensuring that the Bills will remain in Buffalo long after the passing of owner Ralph Wilson (and the sale of the franchise to an outsider) feels much different than grandstanding.
Cuomo’s move suggests that there’s real concern the Wilson family could sell the team to someone with designs on moving it. There’s also concern that any effort to ensure the Bills won’t be able to break their lease could be leveraged by the franchise into a much more favorable lease.
“New York state is committed to doing all we can to keep the Bills a part of the Buffalo community, while also protecting taxpayer dollars and seeing that the team can thrive in western New York for years to come,” Cuomo said, via the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
That’s the balance that Erie County and the state of New York State will be trying to strike. They want to be sure the Bills can’t leave, but they also don’t want to have to give the Bills too much of a sweetheart deal to ensure that they’ll stay.
The fact that the powers-that-be are sufficiently concerned to hire an outside expert implies that the Bills are driving a very hard bargain. Even if the Wilson family has no intention of selling the team to someone who would ever move it, the current management sees an opportunity to parlay security into a much more favorable arrangement.
And so the politicians who are wringing hands and gnashing teeth need to be willing to call this what it is. The Bills are making a power play. They know that there’s anxiety about the team leaving, and the Bills want to convert that into every last penny they can get.
We’re not saying the Bills are wrong for doing it. But the Bills can’t have it both ways, pretending to be committed to remaining in western New York while privately trying to get as much taxpayer money as possible to do that which they claim they want to do anyway.