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Ralph Wilson: Remember This One?



Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - On the morning after the private funeral services for Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson, we're reminded of what a passionate man he was about the game of football.  And, of course, a passionate man about the Buffalo Bills.

It was back in 1998 when Wilson, then 80 years old, was so distraught at the game officiating that he made some pointed comments following a game about the officials and the calls.  Those comments led to a $5000 fine.  Thanks to Mike Florio and tsn.ca, we have the text of a memo Wilson fired about the scolding to then-NFL Commissioner Paul Taglibue.

On December 2nd I received a fax from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue informing me the Bills are being fined $50,000 for criticism on my part of officiating in the last moments of our game with New England.  I described two calls, back-to-back, as probably the worst I have witnessed in the 60 years I have watched pro football.  Those two calls cost the Bills a very important game, one in which our team fought back very courageously from a substantial deficit.

“Society today is more enlightened.  Fair comment and criticism are rampant.  The entire media as a unit is frank and the millions watching a game are frank.

“But the Commissioner lecturing to me as if I were a novice, instead of one who has been involved in football infinitely longer than he has, contends that criticizing a call has ‘destructive and corrosive effects on the game.’

“What is more destructive and corrosive — errant calls in front of millions of viewers or my statements of opinion?  People all over the country registered shock at the way the officials, however honorable their purpose, took the game away from us.  Even the league has admitted to us that the calls near the conclusion of the game were incorrect.

“On Monday morning the Commissioner can sermonize on destruction and corrosion, but he has never experienced the pain of blowing a crucial game due to officiating.  I have yet to decide whether I will pay or challenge the fine.

“But, at 80, I do know I don’t need pompous lectures from the Commissioner and I feet that the $50,000 is not only unwarranted, but punitive in nature.  The next time he may ask me to sit in the corner.

Wonder what the fine would be in 2014 dollars?

COMPLETE Ralph Wilson Coverage


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