“Bills Mafia” has once again jumped at the chance to show what it’s all about.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Bills fans had donated more than $10,000 to the Victor S. Johnson III Nashville Children’s Alliance, a charity that provides support to children who have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse.
So why are Bills fans donating to a charity in Tennessee?
Revenge, as Shelby Waddle explains it.
Waddle, the wife of new Bills offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, was motivated by a Twitter contest that went wrong. Fox Sports’ NFL Twitter page (@NFLonFox) is running a March Madness-style contest to identify the league’s best fan base. The Bills had advanced to the final four, and appeared to be cruising toward a spot in the final before a late voting surge led to the Tennessee Titans pulling off – excuse the phrase – another Music City Miracle.
In the final minutes of the poll, thousands of votes flooded in for the Titans. Allegedly, those votes were fraudulent, the result of some Titans fans paying for Twitter votes. Yes, seriously.
“For me, I'm all about revenge, you know? I don't like losing,” Shelby Waddle said Wednesday afternoon. “When I lose due to people cheating, the best revenge for me is to really stick it to 'em. And what better way to stick it to 'em than donate to charity in their city and essentially prove what they proved the opposite of doing when they cheated.
“How do you prove you’re the best fan base? Literally doing the greatest thing that you can do. ... It was an excuse to do something good and to get something really good out of – not a serious situation – but something that was kind of crappy.”
Waddle reached out to Del Reid, the co-founder of Bills Mafia and the owner of 26 Shirts, a Buffalo-based T-shirt company that routinely donates a portion of its proceeds from each new design to various charitable causes. Together, they settled on the Nashville Children’s Alliance, a cause that hits home for Waddle.
“I was sexually abused when I was 6 years old for multiple years,” she said. “That’s why this charity in particular really resonated with me. I can give these resources to people that I wish I would have had at a young age, that I would have been given, when I went through that.”
Waddle said she’s gotten some pushback on social media from people saying she’s “only doing this because you lost a poll.”
“You know what, we're doing it, and kids' lives are being changed. If you can find a negative in that, that's horrible,” she said. “I don't care what those people have to say, because these kids go through things that they should never have to go through as children. For me, we are changing people's lives, and that's the bottom line. I really will turn a deaf ear toward anything that's negative towards that.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Bills fans have gotten behind a charitable cause. The team’s supporters famously raised more than $400,000 for the charity of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s foundation after he led a comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens in the final week of the 2017 season, clinching a playoff spot for the Bills. In November, Bills fans responded to a slight from NBC Sports Chicago ahead of a game against the Bears by donating to Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Reid said more than $10,000 was raised at the time.
“It's crazy. It's amazing what the opportunity to puff your chest out a little bit will do,” he said Wednesday. “Now that Bills fans on social media have kind of created this reputation for themselves in terms of being charitably minded, I feel like they feel the obligation – which is great – to continue to uphold that reputation. So when the opportunity arises, they're very quick to say, 'Oh yeah? Who's the better fan base, the one that spends money on votes or the one that spends money on helping people?’ ”
LaAdrian Waddle signed with the Bills on March 16, but it hasn’t taken his wife long to embrace the community.
“I've never in my life come across people so welcoming, so kind, so genuine, as the people of Bills Mafia,” she said. “I don't mean it in a bad way, of course, but the 'niceness' that Buffalo people have shown me is weird. Like, I have never in my life come across people like this. I'm from Detroit. People don't even look at you, let alone be nice to you. I mean this, and I don't mean to sound corny, but these people have changed my life. They really have. I've had some mental health and depression issues. They really have uplifted me and really have impacted me in a significantly positive way. I'm forever grateful to the people of Buffalo."
“It's pretty awesome, isn't it?” Reid said. “It shows she understands kind of what the whole 'Bills Mafia' thing is all about. Very early on, she mentioned about jumping into tables and stuff like that. That's still part of the equation. There are still people who love doing that and that's fine. But I saw a lot of replies to her original tweets saying it's so much more than that. The City of Good Neighbors, explaining that whole thing, she just dove right in.”