FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 10, 2006
Schumer Shines National Spotlight On Fight To Keep Bills In Buffalo – Forming New Coalition With Senators From Small Market Teams Across Country
Schumer Urges NFL Commissioner Goodell To Ensure The Preservation Of Small Market Teams
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, joined by Ralph Wilson, the Bills Owner, today brought the fight to keep the Bills in Buffalo to the national stage. Schumer, a longtime advocate for the Bills, is forming a new coalition of Senior Senators representing small market teams from across the country to elevate the fight for teams like the Bills. Schumer also urged National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell, to work to ensure the preservation of small market teams. The NFL team owners are set to meet on October 24, and Schumer announced that Goodell will personally meet with Ralph Wilson on November 2 to discuss the needs of the team. After Goodell was elected NFL Commissioner, Schumer urged the Jamestown native to visit with Wilson as soon as possible.
“The Bills are one of Western New York’s greatest assets, and I want to be sure they stay and succeed,” Schumer said. “Goodell will be meeting with Ralph Wilson in less than a month, and that is a good step in the right direction. The formation of a coalition with my colleagues, who also represent small market teams, will ensure the Bills, and similar teams, get their fair revenue share and are protected. Small market teams are a vital part of local economies and the culture in these cities, and it is important that we work together to keep football in our communities.”
The NFL recently negotiated a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with its players, and among other issues, the agreement could alter the revenue sharing practices of the teams in the league, and many small market teams have expressed their concerns over the impact this could have on their ability to thrive in their current hometown. Over the next few months, the NFL and its team owners will make critical decisions about these issues.
Schumer today urged his colleagues who represent small market teams, to join him in bringing attention to the plight of their hometown teams struggling to compete with teams in more lucrative and populous areas. Schumer specifically called on Senators who represent the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta (Georgia) Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore (Maryland) Ravens, Cincinnati (Ohio) Bengals, Cleveland (Ohio) Browns, Green Bay (Wisconsin) Packers, Indianapolis (Indiana) Colts, Tampa Bay (Florida) Buccaneers, Kansas City (Missouri) Chiefs, St. Louis (Missouri) Rams, New Orleans (Louisiana) Saints, Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Steelers, Seattle (Washington) Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.
Schumer said that the presence of an NFL franchise in smaller markets are important not just for the local economic impacts but also for the collective regional psyche and the broader influence the presence of a national league team has over the decisions of businesses to bring their operations, other tourist attractions and economic development opportunities to a City. Unfortunately, in many cases factors beyond the control of small market teams pose significant challenges to the team’s financial ability to compete. The ability of small market teams to generate revenue and compete for talented players is largely dictated by their ability to price tickets, merchandise, naming rights etc in a scale their local economy can afford, and yet, at the same time, their expenses such as player salaries are dictated by the national market. Traditionally, the NFL has been very aware of these circumstances and has put revenue sharing measures in place that create an equitable market so that all teams can attract the players they need to remain competitive. However, Schumer told his colleagues that it appears this balance is now in jeopardy. Schumer is concerned that the NFL is in danger of veering from its time honored approach toward economic and competitive balance between the small and large market teams. Before the effect shows up on the field and the ability of small market teams to stay viable – Schumer believes something must be done, and together these Senators can make a difference.
Schumer gave the example that a business in Buffalo whose revenues were entirely based on the local economic environment but all the expenses were dictated by the expenses of New York City. He asked the Senators to imagine how long a business might last in that environment. This gives a basic description of some of the challenges that face small market teams.
In a personal letter to the Senators, Schumer wrote, “As a member of this small market team coalition, I would ask that you work closely with your state’s small market team owner to raise awareness of the potential impact of league changes. Lead peer-to-peer with other interested parties in your state. Encourage mayor to speak to mayors, county executive to county executive, etc and begin the chorus of conversation from your state to the leadership of the NFL about the importance of this issue. And finally, contact the leadership of the NFL and the owners of all NFL teams to ask that they actively supportive measures that will ensure the viability of small market teams and to preserve the character of the game as a national sport.”
Over the last several months, Schumer has been actively advocating for the Buffalo Bills to the NFL leadership and by raising public awareness of the issue with prominent Buffalonians like Jack Kemp and Tim Russert. Schumer worked closely with Commissioner Tagliabue and is now working with Commissioner Goodell to communicate the small market team’s point of view throughout negotiations around the CBA to ensure that measures are put in place that protect the health of small market teams but also the league in general. Goodell, a native of Jamestown, New York, was selected unanimously by NFL owners in early August, and his five-year term began in September. Schumer immediately urged Goodell, in a personal phone conversation, to do everything he can to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Schumer and Goodell discussed the importance of making sure that small market teams are protected in any final revenue sharing agreements. Earlier this year, Schumer lobbied outgoing NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to ensure the league’s Qualifier Committee includes representatives from small market franchises. On April 21, after a meeting organized by Schumer with Tagliabue and Buffalo native Tim Russert, Tagliabue announced that Bills owner Ralph Wilson would serve on the eight-team committee that is now determining how league revenues will be split.
“I am asking my fellow Senators to stand with me to protect our hometown teams. The power of the larger market teams who have competing interests over many of these decisions cannot be ignored. I believe it is critical that we build a coalition of advocates for the interests of small market teams to ensure their needs are met,” Schumer added.