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BILLS' PLAYERS DO CARE

In reading Donn Esmonde's article of Thursday, Nov. 19 entitled "It's players' turn to ante up in luxury-seat drive," I was appalled at the inaccuracies of some of his facts, which he attributed to sources, and outraged at the direction in which he tried to lead the reader.

The overall tone of Mr. Esmonde's article was that the players are not giving anything back in terms of purchasing club seats as the Dec. 1 deadline rapidly approaches. In fact, he states "They (players) could donate seats to inner-city kids or Camp Good Days or anybody else who'd bring kids in who've never so much as seen the stadium."

What an insult this is to players such as Andre Reed, who purchases two club seats per game and additionally pays for and donates 10 tickets per game for Big Brothers, or Thurman Thomas, who has bought six club seats and buys an additional 35 tickets per game, or Ted Washington, who purchases 30 tickets per game and donates the whole lot to grade school students, not to mention the numerous season tickets he purchases for family and friends.

These are just a few of the examples of players who purchase seats and donate them to worthy causes. There are other players who have undertaken similar charitable endeavors, but have asked that their efforts not be made public knowledge. They have become involved in their charitable efforts because they do care about individuals in their own community and want to keep the publicity of their generosity out of the picture.

He also writes that "not one Bills player -- or former player, coach or former coach -- has anted up to keep this team in this community."

What? I know for a fact that numerous players and coaches in the past have purchased club seats and many on this year's squad also have purchased club seats for next season. In a recent conversation with Wade Phillips, he personally told me that he bought four club seats last week.

How about the timing of this article? I think many businesses, fans and the Bills organization are making a very concentrated effort to reach the $11-million goal. Why does Mr. Esmonde feel it is necessary to write this article at this time -- about 12 days before the deadline? For anyone who is considering stepping up in the last few weeks, this article may have a chilling effect. His column makes it sound like the team doesn't care. Plus, it's a real slap in the face to those who have stepped up.

It should also be noted, to no small measure, that the payroll tax for the players salaries over the life of the lease entirely pays Governor Pataki's commitment of state money to support the franchise.

The two things that I was most proud of as a member of the Buffalo Bills organization was what our team accomplished on the field as well as in the community. We won some championships and had some great fun doing it and the fans were certainly an integral part of that.

But just as importantly, I think we made a real difference in our community and this year's Bills team continues to make a difference. Whether it's purchasing club seats and/or season and individual game tickets for charitable endeavors, handing out food to needy families during the holiday season or visiting children in hospitals, the Buffalo Bills coaches, players and entire staff have more than "anted" up.

It's a shame that someone in such an influential position as a newspaper columnist spends much of his time attempting to mislead the "12th man."

STEVE TASKER
East Aurora

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