It was 2014, and Donald Trump was planning to bid on the Buffalo Bills. So he invited a group of Western New Yorkers to Trump Tower to talk strategy.
Trump had one major point of emphasis: Take down Jon Bon Jovi.
Michael Caputo, who Trump asked to run his public relations effort ahead of his bid for the Bills, recounted the details of what would become a renowned anti-Bon Jovi effort by Buffalo Bills fans on The Tim Graham Show, hosted by News Sports Reporter Tim Graham, on March 8, 2017. (GQ Magazine recently published a story on Caputo's and others' involvement in Trump's bid).
Below is a transcript of selected parts of Michael Caputo's comments on The Tim Graham Show.
Caputo's comments begin with the meeting in Trump Tower:
We talked about strategy and what would need to be done.
One of the things that [Trump] brought up over and over again was he kept calling the Toronto bid – that became known as the Bon Jovi bid – but he kept saying that 'We know the Toronto people are going to pay the value of the team in Toronto, not the value of the team in Buffalo. So we've got to make sure that their bid is just not even soluble because you gotta make sure that people know that they're going to steal the team.'
So my job on the public relations side was to popularize that concept – that if you sell to Jon Bon Jovi, this is going to Toronto, no matter what they say. ...
One of the first things Donald Trump ... he called me soon after he put in, while he was assembling his first bid – and he asked me to make sure to do whatever it took with a community relations effort to popularize the idea that Jon Bon Jovi was going to steal the team.
So we put together a fan group called Bills Fan Thunder [the group was originally called 12th Man Thunder], at his behest, to actually, you know, get the word out there that Jon Bon Jovi was a Trojan Horse.
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"We put together a group from Big Tree [in Orchard Park], where I'm from. All the guys who park cars on their lawns. The chairman was Chucky Sonntag from Chucky's Parking; the president Charlie Pellien, who grew up on California Road parking cars there, and Paul Roorda, who did all the designs; and everything and Tony Lynch, who was a barfly all over the place here in Buffalo.
And basically we put a poster together – it said "Bon Jovi Free Zone."
Paul Roorda designed something incredible out of his shop. And Tony Lynch took that poster everywhere and got all the bar owners to declare their bars, Bon Jovi Free Zones.
And then I went, we went, to the media ... the radio stations around town refused to play Bon Jovi music, and it just kind of took off, in fact it took on a life of its own in a lot of ways.
And, by the way, within a couple of days of telling us to do this, Donald Trump submitted his billion dollar bid, and called me up – and you know, we were waiting for a check, you know ... to fund the thing – and Donald Trump says, 'Ahh Mike, I'm sorry, I signed a non-disclosure agreement – I can't even talk to you people.'
And I said, 'Well, I guess we'll go ahead and do this on our own. OK?'
He says, 'OK, have fun.'
I didn't hear from him again. ... [He] couldn't even talk to us.
Tim Graham Show co-host Mike Rodak: "Has this been made public, that Donald Trump was was behind a lot of this?"
He was the inspiration for it.
Charlie Pellien and Chuck Sonntag and Paul Roorda and Lynch. They just ran with it after Trump backed out, and said we're going to do it anyway.
I'll never forget when we founded this thing, four guys from this hardscrabble area from right around the stadium there – when you think about Orchard Park, that's not the Orchard Park you think of. You know, the Buffalo Bills leave Orchard Park, that's going to be a no man's land. So they were in it with both feet.
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Tim Graham: Well, this is insight. I thought I had the Bills' sale and everything that went on with ownership change down, nailed down. ... I thought I knew it all, but I did not know this.
Donald Trump didn't do it, but he instructed me to do it.
He inspired this group of Big Tree boys to go at it. And then he had to pull the plug, because of the nondisclosure, and we were already off and running. We were able to sell T-shirts, etc., etc. to get it done.
And in fact, Bills Fan Thunder exists today as a children's charity. We take 20 at-risk youth to every single home game, and have a children's tailgate and things like that. In a lot of ways, a lot of these kids owe their ability to go to these games to that fight for keeping the Bills here in Buffalo. ...
It was really Charlie Pellien and Chucky Sonntag who said we've got to keep this thing going.
For more details on Trump's attempt to buy the Bills, listen to the complete audio of this first of three segments below (links to Parts II and III follow):