Bills Mafia refers to the collective fanbase of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. The term got its start in 2010 when Bills fan Del Reid got was sparring on Twitter with Adam Schefter, an ESPN reporter. Schefter blocked Reid, who responded with the hashtag #BillsMafia.
The hashtag grew and grew. Bills fans and players both embraced it. Now everyone who follows the NFL knows about the Bills Mafia, a fanbase known both for ludicrous game-day tailgating behavior such as jumping from a height and smashing into a folding table and generous gestures such as raising money for charities.
Bills Mafia raised more than $1 million for the Oishei Children’s Hospital, in honor of Patricia Allen, late grandmother of Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen. They donated $500,000 two years ago for Blessings in a Backpack, Lamar Jackson’s favorite charity, after the Baltimore quarterback was injured in the Bills’ playoff win against Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens. They even rallied to donate more than $65,000 for Western New York Visually Impaired Advancement following a questionable play call by NFL officials in December of 2021.
But not everyone is enamored with the idea of Bills Mafia. This is the era when Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians changed their name to Cleveland Guardians, and when the NFL’s Washington Redskins rebranded as the Washington Commanders. Being considered offensive to certain groups is no longer acceptable. Schools and organizations across the country are changing their names in order to be more respectful.
A number of people wrote to The Buffalo News objecting to the Bills Mafia nomenclature. Here’s one:
While Buffalo supports the removal of statues honoring an Italian-American hero, Christopher Columbus, it supports using the name of a criminal organization, an organization founded by thugs who preyed on their own people, murderers and drug suppliers and extortionists, to represent Bills fans?
Other letter writers asked people to keep things in perspective:
The actual origins of the word “mafia” are thus: “The word mafia derives from the Sicilian adjective mafiusu, which, roughly translated, means swagger, but can also be translated as boldness or bravado.” On that basis, swagger, boldness and bravado are very fitting monikers for Buffalo Bills fans.
Regardless of how people feel about the use of the word mafia, or how the actual mafia might feel, the Buffalo Bills organization decided it was time to get involved. Sensing opportunity (revenue), they applied for a trademark on the term Bills Mafia. Now the only way for fans to get Bills Mafia gear, which used to be supplied by all kinds of rogue outlets, is through the Buffalo Bills organization.
By forcing fans enamored with Bills Mafia to buy their paraphernalia in this way, the billionaire owners of the football team get a taste of the action. Which is kind of the way the actual mafia works. Go Bills!