Tonawanda News — As social media sites lit up Tuesday afternoon over the news that the iconic Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson had died at the age of 95, those in the Tonawandas had mixed opinions on what his passing will mean for the future of the team.
What was certain, however, was the outpouring of admiration and respect for a man with a practically unrivaled legacy in professional sports.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wilson “set the standard” for NFL ownership.
“He brought his beloved Bills to Western New York, and his commitment to the team’s role in the community set the standard for the NFL,” Goodell said. “As a trusted adviser to his fellow league owners and the commissioner, Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues.”
Fellow NFL owners expressed admiration for Wilson, who was frequently referred to as the “conscience of the NFL” for principled stands against teams relocating and creating a revenue-sharing deal that allowed small market teams to remain financially viable.
“As two of the original members of the AFL’s Foolish Club, my father and Ralph shared a unique bond and special friendship,” said Clark Hunt, son of the late Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who with Wilson founded the AFL. “I had the privilege of knowing Ralph and his family my entire life. His sense of humor was extraordinary, and his passion for the Buffalo Bills was remarkable.”
Hall of Fame Bills coach Marv Levy, who led the team during its Super Bowl runs in the early 90s, said Wilson’s legacy in football and in Western New York will long be remembered.
“(I’m) deeply saddened to hear about his passing. He meant so much to the game that both of us revered, and to the community of Buffalo and beyond. It’s quite a loss, and he’s going to be remembered so fondly by everyone who knew him,” Levy said.