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Don't get overly excited about Donald Trump's possible interest in Buffalo Bills


Donald Trump, as he's wont to do, caused a media stir today.

Trump told WBEN 930-AM he might be interested in purchasing the Buffalo Bills to keep the team in Western New York.

"It would be catastrophic, in my opinion, if Buffalo lost the Buffalo Bills," Trump said.

Any such talk is greeted with enthusiasm here. Bills fans for decades have been nervous about the team someday leaving town. The possibility became even more palpable last week, when 95-year-old Bills owner Ralph Wilson died.

When I spoke with Trump last week about Jim Kelly, the billionaire developer and entertainer declined, out of respect for Wilson, whose funeral was two days away, to chat about any potential interest he might have in buying the Bills.

Trump felt comfortable enough to talk about it today with multiple news outlets. But left unaddressed were solutions to two notable problems Trump would face if he decided to go forward with a purchase.

Forbes magazine estimates Trump is worth $3.9 billion, more than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($3.1 billion) and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft ($3 billion).

Only a handful is estimated to be worth more than Trump: Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen ($10.9 billion), St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke ($5.6 billion), Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($5.5 billion), Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer ($4.5 billion) and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan ($4.3 billion).

Money alone, however, won't get Trump into the fraternity.

NFL ownership is bound by strict business rules and requires approval of the group.

Trump has issues on both fronts.

NFL owners cannot have any gambling interests, and Trump owns a pair of Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza.

From the NFL's gambling policy:

NFL personnel shall not work for, own or operate, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, individually or through any business organization, any casino (whether or not such casino operates a "sports book" or otherwise accepts wagering on sports), or other gambling-related enterprise, including, without limitation, any online, computer-based, telephone, or internet gambling service, card rooms, lotteries, slot machine operations, horse or dog-racing tracks, off-track betting services, as well as advisory services such as publications, "tout services," and the like, whether or not such services address professional football or any other team sport.

The NFL defines personnel as, "All players, coaches and other full- and part-time club and league personnel, including but not limited to team owners, trainers, officials, security personnel, consultants, and other staff."

Even if Trump were to sell off his casino interests, he'd face another tall obstacle.

The NFL could box out Trump simply if the other owners don't like him, a very real concern. Trump, as owner of the New Jersey Generals, was the driving force behind the USFL's $1.7 billion antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1984.

Trump's motivations were questioned. He was viewed by many as self-serving, willing to nuke the USFL for personal gain. Some thought Trump sued in hopes the NFL would absorb the Generals.

The USFL won its lawsuit. The NFL got a nice laugh when the judge ordered it to pay $3.76 in damages.

As silly as it seems for a pop-music star to be an NFL owner, Kraft's friend Jon Bon Jovi might have an easier time being accepted into the club than Trump would.

  • Thomas Errico

    Between Tim Graham and Donn Esmonde, it's like the Buffalo News is trying to run the Bills out of town. A very foolish move since the sports page and Sunday coupons are the only reason anyone buys this nearly worthless rag in the first place. Trump can be a minority owner and it would be fine, He just cannot be the guy in control of the team.

    • Tim Graham

      As stated in the story above, nobody in the NFL is allowed to operate or work for a casino. That would include minority owners. Also, the entire prospective ownership group would get voted on for approval by the other 31 owners. If Trump is involved in that group, there's a good chance his past dealings with the NFL would impact the vote. Thanks for reading.

      • ptato22

        I appreciate your article, as it's important to know the facts concerning potential ownership deals. In fact, I like the BN. Still, why not offer a scenario where in fact it could happen that Trump could take control of the team. Obviously, he thinks it's in the realm of possibility so surely you could enlighten us (your devoted readership) on how that could be achieved. Now that would be a good article and keep us interested and wanting to read more.

        • Terrier1

          I doubt he thinks it is in the realm of possibility at all.
          The reporter at WBEN stoked his ego and asked him if he would be interested (she obviously didn't do her homework re: gambling interests & the NFL or about his past dealings with the league).
          He wasn't about to tell her how the NFL owners detest him and his gambling interests eliminate he basked in the glory of being asked to be Buffalo's "savior".

      • BullGuy

        You and your sound logic supported by facts......

  • shipdog7

    How does this affect his decision to move from New York to Florida because of high state income taxes? And Florida having zero state income tax? Donald Trump's $125 million Palm Beach mansion is the result of his effort to keep his well earned money.

    • Kevin Hickey

      Yes, he worked hard for that money! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!

      • B H

        EIther he worked hard for it or he's much smarter than you are because he's rich and you live in your mother's basement in the City of Nothing.......hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

        • Kevin Hickey

          Yeah, he was "smart enough" to emerge from the birth canal of a rich momma.

    • Terrier1

      Actually it is more a testament to his ability to con bankers and get them to finance his bloated lifestyle.

  • Buffalo Shark

    trump just wants more media attention because he's a huge attention wh**e

  • Skip Bayless

    Trust me when I say that no one is overly excited - or even just plain excited - about such prospects. The idea that "we" are seems to be invented for the sole purpose of writing this.

  • Jan Reimers

    Good, informative article, Tim.

  • coyotejazz

    When I heard about this yesterday, I was sure it was an April Fool's joke. Although clearly not an April Fool's joke, it is still a joke. Above all, he is a joke. And our beloved Bills would be dragged down into the swamp where he lives if there were ever to be any association between the team and this character. This would be truly living a nightmare.

  • Scott

    I find it interesting that the Buffalo News has brought up this very important fact. And, that Channel 2,4, and 7 still run news clips touting the possibility of him purchasing the BILLS. The rule is very clear, and I seriously doubt he will give up his money making casinos to have anything to do with the BILLS.


    In the movie "Patton", the general's tanks outmaneuvered Gen. Rommel panzers on the plains of Africa , Patton shouts into the camera [to Rommel] "I read your book, you SOB!"

    If you read Trumps early books, he brags about his ability to con his investors. In one case his tricks his investors into believing one of his projects is not stalled but making headway. Heavy equipment is running hither and froe looking busy, but actually doing nothing but kicking up dust. Trump got the loan.

    Trump brags about his ability to con people. The comments about buying the Bills are more of the same. If you ask Trump if he'll run for office -any office- you get the con. If you ask him if he knows God Almighty, you'll get yet another con.

  • Rich

    I'd love to see The Donald on a cold windy November Sunday afternoon down on the sidelines screaming at Marrone while trying to hold onto his hair. That would be worth the price of admission.

  • Terrier1

    Your line "Trump told WBEN 930AM" just about sums it up.
    This joke of a radio station has been "all-Trump, all the time."
    Trump's political strategist, Roger Stone, works with Michael Caputo, a fill in host on WBEN. They stoked the fire for the "Draft Trump for Governor" campaign. It's no coincidence that Stone and Caputo both consulted Paladino and DiPietro - two other local pols who enjoy the limelight and trips on the Trump plane.
    WBEN led their newscasts yesterday with Trump and the Paladino led gun rally and Trump and the Bills...both non-newsworthy non-stories.
    I'm not a political insider...I'm just someone who can read and put two and two together.
    If I can see what's going on - why can't WBEN (and the BN)???

  • Jamie Rozek

    First of all, Trump did not say he would be an "owner." He said he would consider "investing." There is a difference.
    That means there would be an owner, and he would help with the purchase. Investing does not always mean outright ownership.

    • Terrier1

      You assume Trump has cash available to invest.
      He has just about as much cash at his disposal at the Rigas family did when they bought the Sabres - basically none.

      • Jamie Rozek

        That is an assumption. As is anything anyone says here. The only one that knows the truth to that is Donald Trump and his accountant.

        • Terrier1

          Which is exactly why he didn't run for governor - he would have to disclose his assets and his liabilities.
          That would destroy the "persona" he has created on his TV show...
          Don't look behind the curtain!

  • TheKaz1969

    I'll take Bon Jovi over Donald Trump....

  • lifes good!

    Dpnald Trump clearly stated the he "might" be interested in buying the Buffalo Bills because it would be "catastrophic if Buffalo loses the Bills". He's doing something for Buffalo...with his money...what's the problem?

  • Kevin Hickey

    I can only imagine what the uniforms would look like. They'd probably have his sneering mug plastered on them somewhere.

    • Michael Towers

      The Sabres uniforms had his hair on them, so honestly, how much worse could it be?

  • Brian

    New stadium with a comb over retractable roof!

  • ExpectResults

    You would trust Donald Trump's word that he would keep the Bills in Buffalo? I would not trust his word on ANYTHING.

    His just pandering to gain any support he can for his own benefit. The man is self-centered and selfish.

  • jack

    OMG What a Blowhard!!!!!!!!! The most ignorant facilitator of hot air I've ever seen on a national level. Not a trustworthy bone in his enormous bloated body! He would use Jim Kelly's illness to get press. Unbelievable.

    • Jamie Rozek

      Actually he was asked by the press.

      • Terrier1

        Calling the "reporters" at WBEN "The Press" is more complimentary than they deserve.

  • Paul Joseph

    All he cares about is more pomp for the Trump brand name.

  • ucanthandlethetruth

    check the dateline of this story....only in Buffalo

  • david6380

    Good article, thanks for identifying why Trump might not be allowed to buy the team; when I first heard about it, it seemed like an interesting possibility.

  • Jonnno

    I think there are going to be a lot of false messiahs when this is all said and done.

  • t.ames

    Thank god this idiot can't If trump ever got a hold of the bills

  • ibiwisi

    How pathetic and needy are we in this area? Seems like lately anyone with big bucks, whether it's Trump or Cuomo, enjoys coming here and dangling their financial carrots in front of our faces and promising some kind of help to us just to watch us drool. These two guys are just two sides of the same coin...or maybe that's Bitcoin...or in their cases, "two-bit" coins.

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.