Reports from ESPN indicate that Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has passed away. He was 95 years old. Wilson has owned the team since its founding, as one of the original franchises of the AFL, which would later merge with the NFL. He owned the team for 54 years.
Wilson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. The stadium where the Bills host their home games in Orchard Park, New York, was formerly known as Rich Stadium. It is currently known as Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Wilson was key to the survival of the AFL.
He was a guiding force in a number of important AFL policies such as gate and television revenue sharing. Wilson also lent money to the financially troubled Oakland Raiders ($400,000) and the Patriots when they went through tough times. In this way Wilson helped keep those franchises, and in fact the entire AFL afloat during the challenging early times.
Wilson was also the key owner leading the charge to have AFL games postponed the Sunday after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination; NFL games were played as scheduled that week, creating controversy at the time.
Wilson`s steady ownership saw the Bills win two AFL Championships in the 1965 and 1966 and four straight AFC Championships and Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s.
Russ Brandon has been in charge of Bills team operations since January 1st, 2013 and will continue in that role in the immediate future. The future of the ownership of the franchise is in question however, as it is unclear how Wilson`s heirs will be able to pay the huge estate taxes on transferring ownership of the team without a sale.
We at LWOS offer our condolences to the Wilson family, the Buffalo Bills, the NFL, friends, fans, and all who are mourning this loss.
More to come.
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