League reacts to the passing of Ralph Wilson

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Legendary Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. died on Tuesday, at the age of 95.  The only owner in franchise history has been remembered by a variety of NFL teams and by the league office.  A variety of statements forwarded to PFT and/or posted on team websites appears below.

“Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America’s most popular sport. He loved the game and took a chance on a start-up league in 1960 as a founding owner of the American Football League. He brought his beloved Bills to western New York and his commitment to the team’s role in the community set a standard for the NFL. As a trusted advisor to his fellow league owners and the commissioner, Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues. His lifelong loyalty to the game was instrumental in his richly deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We are grateful for his many contributions to the NFL and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the Wilson family.”

Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner

“I would like to extend my sincerest sympathies to Ralph’s wife, Mary, his daughters and his extended family, including every coach, player, staff member and fan of the Buffalo Bills who are mourning his loss today. As one of the founding fathers of the AFL, Ralph deserves a lot of credit for taking that initial risk and for the many contributions he made to the NFL over the past 54 years. He built a franchise that the Buffalo community loves and embraces. Personally, I will always be grateful for how he welcomed me when I first entered the league. He was always a gracious host and I will never forget that. I will miss him.”

Robert Kraft, Patriots chairman and CEO

“On behalf of my family and the entire Chiefs organization we’d like to express our deepest sympathies to the Wilson family and the Buffalo Bills.  Ralph had a significant impact on the evolution of pro football.  He took risks and made decisions that helped mold the NFL into what it is today.  As two of the original members of the AFL’s Foolish Club, my father and Ralph shared a unique bond and a special friendship.  I had the privilege of knowing Ralph and his family my entire life. His sense of humor was extraordinary and his passion for the Buffalo Bills was remarkable. He was a gentleman and a family man and will be missed dearly.”

Clark Hunt, Chiefs Chairman and CEO

“Our family and our franchise send our condolences to the Wilson family and Bills organization at this difficult time. As the last surviving NFL member of the ‘Foolish Club,’ Ralph Wilson helped grow the game in new territories and in new ways and his passing concludes a terrific success story. Our two franchises have shared many moments in football history and Bud was proud to see Ralph Wilson enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 50th Anniversary of the AFL.”

Tommy Smith, Titans CEO/president

“We are deeply saddened by today’s news of the passing of Ralph Wilson, one of the most respected owners in our league. Ralph made many contributions to both the AFL and NFL, playing a major role in the growth and development of both leagues. His impact helped make the NFL a success, and he always kept the league’s best interest in mind to better the game of professional football. We lost a great man and a great friend today. We want to extend our prayers, deepest sympathies and condolences to his wife, Mary, his daughters and the entire Wilson Family, as well as the Buffalo Bills organization.”

Dan Rooney, Steelers chairman, and Art Rooney II, Steelers president

“Ralph Wilson was a pioneer in the game we all love. Like Barron Hilton with the Chargers, he was one of the founding owners in the American Football League; a league that helped football grow and to become our country’s most popular sport. And his influence in the League has been felt well beyond the AFL and its merger with the NFL. He loved the game and his Bills, and that love and passion is still felt throughout the league today. It has been a privilege for our family to know Ralph and his family over the years. On behalf of the Spanos family and the entire Chargers organization, we extend our deepest sympathy to his family and everyone in the Bills’ organization.”

Chargers owner Dean Spanos

“Mr. Wilson was a visionary and pioneer of professional football. He was instrumental in the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970 and was a key reason for the success of the NFL as we know it today. On behalf of my family and the entire Falcons organization, I extend our condolences and prayers to Ralph’s wife Mary, his daughters and his extended family, as well as to members of the Bills organization. We have lost a founding member of the NFL family, but Ralph’s lasting impact on the NFL will forever be felt.”

Arthur Blank, Falcons owner and chairman

“Ralph Wilson was not only a founding father of the American Football League but an iconic leader of what is so special about the NFL. He was a man who loved his football team and his Buffalo fans and always wanted what was best for the NFL. I admired his independent thinking on every issue that arose and will always remember his welcoming support when I came in to the league. He was a great example of ownership based on his love of the sport and especially his Buffalo Bills. On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, I would like to pass along my condolences to the Wilson family and to the entire Buffalo Bills organization.”

Jeffrey Lurie, Eagles chairman and CEO

“The National Football League lost one of its visionaries today in Ralph Wilson Jr. The thoughts and prayers of my family and the Saints organization go out to his wife Mary and the rest of the Wilson family. Personally to me, Ralph was a valued friend and colleague since I first entered the National Football League in 1985. Professionally, Ralph contributed so many things to the sport and the league we love. His vision and leadership first became evident when he founded the Bills and helped lead the merger of the AFL and the NFL. He continued throughout his ownership to foster the growth of our game and our league and all of us who have benefited in this game owe Ralph Wilson Jr. a debt of gratitude today.”

Tom Benson, Saints owner/chairman of the board

“Ralph Wilson was a good friend. He was one of the great pioneers of the AFL and
great owners in the NFL. We are all going to miss him. Our relationship extended beyond the football field. We were both involved in thoroughbred racing and had many happy moments together watching horses training and competing. Our condolences go out to Mary and his family. We wish them the very best as they deal with their loss.”

Bob McNair, Texans owner

“Today the NFL lost a legend with the passing of Ralph Wilson Jr. As one of the founding fathers of the American Football League, Ralph had a tremendous influence on the AFL-NFL merger and the ensuing growth and success of our sport. He was a pioneer who proved the market size does not determine the success of an NFL franchise, and he became a great leader for the city of Buffalo. We have learned a lot as NFL owners by watching and listening to Ralph. Our deepest sympathies are with his wife, Mary, and their daughters.”

Zygi Wilf, Vikings owner

“I am very sorry to learn that Ralph Wilson passed away today. Ralph was remarkably warm and helpful to me as I knocked on doors to explore ownership in the NFL. Given his legacy as a builder and visionary, I imagine Ralph was able to relate to my dream to one day join him as a team owner. I’ll never forget his kindness to me and will always treasure the letter he wrote welcoming my family to the NFL in 2011. My sympathy and best wishes to his family and fans of the Buffalo Bills.”

Shahid Khan, Jaguars owner

“We are saddened to hear of Ralph Wilson’s passing and extend our deepest condolences to the Wilson family as well as the entire Buffalo Bills organization. Ralph was a visionary who leaves behind a lasting legacy as one of the finest owners in all of sports. His passion for professional football and dedication to our sport played a significant role in the success of our league over the past 50 years.”

Joel Glazer, Buccaneers co-chairman

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Ralph Wilson. All of us have lost a NFL legend whose passion for his team was inspiring. We will always be thankful for Ralph’s contributions to the development of the AFL and NFL.”

Daniel Snyder, Redskins owner

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Wilson. He was a dear friend to Mr. and Mrs. Ford, the Ford Family and the Lions organization. Mr. Wilson truly was one of the great visionaries and caretakers of our game. He was a great Detroiter and has left a lasting legacy for the city of Buffalo and Western New York. We lost a tremendous leader and a true friend today, and his contributions to the NFL will endure forever. Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to his family, friends and the Buffalo Bills organization.”

Tom Lewand, Lions president

“I join the entire football community in mourning the loss of a truly great man in Ralph Wilson. I’m forever grateful to Mr. Wilson for giving me the opportunity to be a head coach in the National Football League. As a coach, Mr. Wilson was everything you could ask for in an owner. He was a very passionate football fan. He was progressive in his thoughts, he loved his players and he provided every resource you could ask for. It’s hard to imagine where our game and our league might be today were it not for his role in creating and more importantly sustaining the American Football League. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Wilson family at this difficult time.”

Gregg Williams, Rams defensive coordinator and former Bills coach

“The Denver Broncos are very saddened by the death of Ralph Wilson. One of the founding American Football League owners, Mr. Wilson guided the Bills with great vision and passion for more than half a century. He loved the game, and his contributions to the league as Pro Football Hall of Fame owner will always be remembered.  Mr. Wilson’s presence will be missed throughout the NFL, and our thoughts are with his family and the entire Bills organization.”

The Denver Broncos

“Mark Davis, Carol Davis and the rest of the Raider family wish to express our condolences to the Wilson family at this time.”

The Oakland Raiders

27 responses to “League reacts to the passing of Ralph Wilson

  1. Ralph Wilson was 95 years old and owned the Bills franchise, he will be missed to all who liked him. But won’t be missed by the people who didn’t. I’m sure he was a very good to mediocre person by all who knew him.

  2. I’d say it’s pretty much impossible to sum up Ralph Wilson in a single condolence paragraph, but the respect for Wilson and Buffalo is clearly heartfelt throughout the League.

  3. “He was a great personal friend to our family for many years. A true visionary, pioneer and I think the NFL is a much better league because of people like Ralph Wilson. He had a lot of character and integrity and was not afraid to be the lone dissenting voice.”

    John Mara

  4. Where’s Jerrah?

    Figures greedy Snyder had little to say about a man who sacrificed a bit of the bottom line for integrity… Doubt we will hear from Jones

  5. Ralph Wilson, has had my respect for being a loyal to his team’s fans, never being tempted to relocate to “greener pastures”, and for telling the media,” it was wrong, that the Browns had moved to Baltimore”. He truly is an owner who shaped what is good, in the NFL.

  6. A rather iconic figure in the history of the AFL and NFL both, to be sure. Rest in peace.

  7. Bengals mike brown and Ralph Wilson are the only owners who voted against the CBA in 2008.

    Ralph Wilson admitted he didn’t understand it… but… he was on the right side of the fight.

    I’m Pro-Union… but… the NFLPA (and the owners) are like al-Qaeda.

  8. joetoronto says:Mar 26, 2014 5:37 AM

    This will be a lame duck season for the Bills, who will be elsewhere in 2016.
    You truly have no clue do you? Maybe you should get some facts straight. When the Bills signed their current stadium lease with Erie County in December 2012, it binds the Bills to Buffalo for at least the next seven years. Although the lease is for ten years, it includes an escape window in 2019. If a new owner decides they want to move the Buffalo Bills, they must incur a $400 million penalty. I really don’t think if the Bills are worth let’s say 820 million, that a new owner would take that penalty. Believe me, the Bills are not going anywhere.

  9. cjspiller12: Whatever makes you feel better, but it’s YOU that doesn’t get it.

    You’ll see very soon.

  10. joetoronto says:Mar 26, 2014 10:25 AM

    cjspiller12: Whatever makes you feel better, but it’s YOU that doesn’t get it.

    You’ll see very soon.
    Maybe, but the fact is………I just made you look like a fool……..because I stated facts and your statement is way off base.

  11. “He was a fun guy. Every Christmas he’d send you a great big chocolate football,” Brown recalled. “You’d put it somewhere else and it was so damn impressive, no one would eat it. His voice carried weight in our meetings here,” Brown said Tuesday at another meeting. “He was an important voice in the National Football League. He had strong opinions and he wasn’t afraid to voice them. He was his own and a very successful man beyond football and a man I admired.” – Mike Brown president of the Cincinnati Bengals.

  12. kingcasper says:
    Mar 26, 2014 10:43 AM
    joetoronto: Sir, you are making a fool of yourself. It’s bad enough that you are Canadian….
    How ironic, you make a statement like that, like it’s better to be American, and you say I’M making a fool of myself.

    Look around buddy, it’s over, it’s really over.

  13. First, with people like joetoronto around, it’s very little wonder that Russ Brandon suspended the Toronto series. Second, as a practical matter, Ralph Wilson was a billionaire, apart from owning the Bills. His estate is VAST. It will take a considerable amount of time to process the estate, even if no one fights the Will. If there is ANY dispute, it will be a long time before any assets are sold, (see Joe Robbie estate).

  14. Thank you for putting all of these together, PFT.

    Ralph was an incredible owner and innovator. The team is firmly planted in Buffalo until 2020 and for that we can thank him. He continues to take care of WNY!

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