The National Football League seems to be getting the message that holding a football game during a major weather emergency is a terrible idea.
After Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz angrily chastised the NFL for trying to going forward with Sunday’s Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium against the New York Jets, league sources told The Buffalo News today that there’s a new game plan.
A league source said the game that had been scheduled at the Orchard Park stadium will be moved to either Detroit or Washington and probably be played on Monday night.
The decision is expected to be made by Friday afternoon.
The change of heart came after Poloncarz blasted the NFL at his afternoon press conferences.
“If the NFL is trying to push the Bills – and I don’t think the Bills are trying to push it – if the NFL is trying to push the Bills to hold a football game, while we’re in the middle of an emergency, shame on the NFL,” Poloncarz said. “Simple as that. We’re in a major emergency.”
The county executive continued: “We’ve had eight deaths. We still might have people in their vehicles. We have roofs collapsing. We were just touring a facility where there were a couple hundred patients in a nursing home and there was 7 feet of snow – with another 2 to 3 feet potential – on a flat roof of a nursing home. If the NFL is pushing this game to be held, shame on the NFL.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to Poloncarz’s comments in an email to The Buffalo News.
“As far as his comments, we are doing no such thing,” Aiello said. “Public safety is the first priority. We are continuing to evaluate the situation and will make decisions as soon as possible.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in town to support the region, seemed to agree that Sunday’s game would only cause problems.
Cuomo seemed to leave a window open when he said “maybe we get a break somewhere along the way,”
But he called it “impractical” for the game to be played at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first,” the governor said. “At this point in time, doing what we have to do with the driving ban and everything we just said – staying off the roads – would make a Bills game impractical. So if you ask me today, right now, my two cents would be it would be impractical to do the game because it could jeopardize public safety.”
Cuomo said: “If there’s any way that we can scramble to get it done, I know the mayor, the county executive and myself will do everything we can to deploy resources to make it possible.... But now we’re focused on public safety.”
Bills officials on Wednesday announced that they would pay $10 an hour, and give free game tickets to anyone who showed up to shovel the stadium.
Despite the hazardous conditions, some Buffalo Bills fans were still planning to travel to the Orchard Park stadium to assist with the cleanup of the 220,000 tons of snow from the stadium.
And today, the Buffalo Bills said they would not practice for a second straight day.