What Is The Bills Mafia?

While many teams in the National Football League share a unique bond with their fans, none have a "mafia" like the Buffalo Bills. It's an unusual term, so where did it come from, and what exactly does it mean? Turns out, it is a relatively new phrase that came to fruition from the fans themselves.

The term "Bills Mafia" began to take shape in November 2010 when journalist and ESPN analyst Adam Schefter was late to tweet about an incident involving then-Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who dropped a touchdown pass costing the Bills the game, according to Buffalo Bills. Johnson apparently took his frustration with God to Twitter, and Schefter took an entire day to report on the incident — a delay that rubbed some Bills fans the wrong way. They criticized Schefter mercilessly, who responded by blocking them on the social media platform (via Sportscasting).

The Bills Mafia started with just a few fans

One of the fans Adam Schefter blocked was Del Reid, who described the Bills fans Schefter blocked as a "Bills Mafia." "Over time, fans discovered it. Players discovered it. It just grew and grew," Reid explained to Sportscasting.

In its early inception, the Bills Mafia might have been associated with rowdy behavior, such as breaking tables and even catching them on fire in pregame festivities, per the New York Post. In fact, in 2019, the Bills issued a "Tailgate Village" policy in an attempt to cut down on some of the dangerous antics taking place at tailgates. Andy Major, the team's vice president of operations and guest experience, told The Buffalo News that while most of the Bills fans are great, there are a few "knuckleheads" that cause issues. But over the years, the Mafia has grown to be so much more than a few unruly fans.

The Bills Mafia is a community

Buffalo Niagara explains that the unique fellowship comes down to the Bills' logo. Not a letter or other mascot, but a buffalo for the city of Buffalo, which embodies an idea of oneness, meaning the Bills and their fans are "family." And while fans are known for showing team spirit at games, the Bills Mafia is plenty active outside of games. The brand raised more than $1 million for the Oishei Children's Hospital, and they donated $500,000 to Blessings in a Backpack, Baltimore Ravens' quarterback Lamar Jackson's favorite charity, after he was injured during a playoff game with the Bills. Other donations include $95,000 for the P.U.N.T. Pediatric Cancer and $442,000 to the Dalton Foundation (via USA Today).

In 2020, after attempting to shun the term Bills Mafia because of its reference to organized crime, the Buffalo Bills — along with the NFL — decided to accept the phrase. Ron Raccuia, executive vice president of the Bills' parent company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, told Sports Illustrated that over the years, it had morphed into a "community spirit."