As the football-following world continues to remember the late Ralph Wilson Jr., here’s something that many had forgotten.
In 1998, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined Wilson $50,000 for making comments critical of game officials. Via TSN.ca, Wilson reacted to the fine with a stirring rebuke of the boss of the sport. Here’s the full text of it.
“On December 2nd I received a fax from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue informing me the Bills are being fined $50,000 for criticism on my part of officiating in the last moments of our game with New England. I described two calls, back-to-back, as probably the worst I have witnessed in the 60 years I have watched pro football. Those two calls cost the Bills a very important game, one in which our team fought back very courageously from a substantial deficit.
“Society today is more enlightened. Fair comment and criticism are rampant. The entire media as a unit is frank and the millions watching a game are frank.
“But the Commissioner lecturing to me as if I were a novice, instead of one who has been involved in football infinitely longer than he has, contends that criticizing a call has ‘destructive and corrosive effects on the game.’
“What is more destructive and corrosive — errant calls in front of millions of viewers or my statements of opinion? People all over the country registered shock at the way the officials, however honorable their purpose, took the game away from us. Even the league has admitted to us that the calls near the conclusion of the game were incorrect.
“On Monday morning the Commissioner can sermonize on destruction and corrosion, but he has never experienced the pain of blowing a crucial game due to officiating. I have yet to decide whether I will pay or challenge the fine.
“But, at 80, I do know I don’t need pompous lectures from the Commissioner and I feet that the $50,000 is not only unwarranted, but punitive in nature. The next time he may ask me to sit in the corner.”
That was powerful and passionate and the NFL needs owners who will speak in that way from time to time. Now that Wilson is gone, here’s hoping another owner will be willing when necessary to say what needs to be said.