Should the Buffalo Bills Play Sunday Despite The Driving Ban?

Posted on November 20, 2014 | in Football, Respect For People, Safety, Sports | by
bills jets snow stadium ralph wilson

The cities surrounding Ralph Wilson Stadium are under a driving ban – with the weather worsening, should the Bills play the Jets on Sunday?

Significantly cold and snowy weather conditions all across the country have made mid-November feel more like January, and nowhere else in the US is it more pronounced than upstate New York. While Buffalo residents are used to driving in the snow, the conditions are so treacherous that many areas around Buffalo have been under a driving ban and major roads and highways are closed to travel.

new york travel bans snow

At the current moment, Orchard Park NY is under a travel ban. Ralph Wilson Stadium is in Orchard Park.

That brings us to the Buffalo Bills, who are scheduled to play the New York Jets on Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. Ralph Wilson Stadium is blanketed with a significant amount of snow, and the team has called upon volunteers to help clear the snow out of the stadium before the game on Sunday. Despite the efforts to prepare the stadium for the game, the outlying areas are still unsafe to navigate and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t see the game being played this Sunday:

Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first.

~snip~

At this point in time, doing what we have to do with the driving ban and everything we just said — staying off the roads — would make a Bills game impractical.

~snip~

So if you ask me today, right now, my two cents would be it would be impractical to do the game because it could jeopardize public safety.

He’s right. On the great pantheon of priorities and the basis for operational strategy, safety for all stakeholders needs to come out on top. Safety of the fans, players, and anyone traveling for the game is paramount, and if the conditions don’t allow folks to make it to work (travel ban or not) then why should it be any different for a football game? Heck, the Bills have canceled practices the last couple of days (including today) because players are either snowed in or it’s unsafe for them to travel. Buffalo itself is not under a travel ban as of Thursday afternoon but the city has a lot of available resources to keep the streets clean. Outlying areas might not have that luxury or aren’t as well guarded against blowing snow.

Decision-makers and Stakeholders

However, the decision to postpone the game lies with the NFL and not the state of New York. The Bills have tried their darndest to get emergency personnel in place to manage logistics for Sunday’s game with the authorities. From Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz:

Erie County officials have been in touch with the Bills. We’ve been asked: ‘Can we commit to having emergency service personnel and the sheriff’s office — the lead police agency — at the game?’ I can tell you right now, at this moment, we cannot commit to having emergency service personnel and the sheriff’s office. At this moment, I cannot commit to that on Sunday.

new york freeway snow

If conditions on roads and freeways remain like this in upstate New York for much longer, it would be extremely risky to hold a football game where 100,000 people would be forced to navigate this.

Will “respect for people” – players, fans, officials – get top billing?

There is a lot more at stake in New York than just a football game between AFC East rivals. Safety officials and authorities need to do what is best for the greater good and the public, and if that means that an NFL game cannot go on as scheduled so be it.

Safety needs to come first, and facilitating a football game puts the safety of a lot of individuals at risk. The NFL can postpone the game and/or play it elsewhere. The NFL has options, but magically improving the weather is not one of them. The NFL needs to show “respect for people” and do the right thing.

**UPDATE** The NFL has moved the Bills-Jets game out of Orchard Park this weekend and will instead be played Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

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