An Open Letter as to the Bills Stadium Naming Rights

Dear Members of the Erie County Legislature,

I am writing you today regarding the naming rights of Bills Stadium. Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, has recently voiced his interest in purchasing the rights. While he and his team may be able to put together a financially sound offer, I implore you to reject any offer he may put forth.

Before I begin addressing why Portnoy and his company are unfit to hold the naming rights to the home of the Bills, I’d like to address certain distorted fact recently published by Big Dog Strategies. Their survey, found here, showed that 56% of fans that are in favor of selling the naming rights are also in favor of those rights going to Barstool Sports. That number is incredibly misleading for a number of reasons.

While 56% is an accurate representation of the percent of fans that want to sell the rights and do so to Barstool, that sample excludes 55% of the participants that either does not want or are unsure of their opinion on the team selling the naming rights. A more conclusive statistic is that 34% of total respondents that want the naming rights to go to Barstool; regardless of how they feel about a sale in the first place. Instead of the alleged majority of fans supporting such a move, we’re looking at roughly a third.

This is all not to mention that the study is hardly representative of all Bills fans. There were only 715 participants in the survey, all of which were adults from the Buffalo metro area. Compare this to the amount of Bills fans on a grander scale. Bills Backers International claims a minimum of 100,000 members across over 40 U.S. states and 11 nations. Admittedly, Erie county residents are the most accessible to a Buffalo-based company such as Big Dog Strategies. It is, however, incredibly misguided to assume that 0.7% of fans surveyed are representative of the entire fan base.

Facts and figures aside, there are more passion-based reasons to reject a bid from Portnoy. The most notable begin that his company is not native to Buffalo. The Barstool Sports headquarters is located in New York City; six and a half hours away from 1 Bills Drive. While the Bills do take pride in being New York state’s only NFL franchise, New York City is more closely associated with the Giants and Jets. The Bills lay claim over the remainder of the state, but NYC is strictly for those that call MetLife home. That conflict of the territory is merely supplemental, however, when considering the location of previous naming rights owners. Since 1973 only Rich Products and New Era Cap Company have owned the rights to the stadium’s name. Both Rich and New Era are based in Buffalo. To break such a tradition would not only feel sacrilegious but would be an affront to the companies of Western New York

Speaking of sacrilege, it is worth noting that Portnoy is infamously a Patriots fan. In a video uploaded to the Barstool Sports YouTube page on January 6th, 2020, Portnoy referred to the Patriots as “we” when speaking about the team’s premature exit from the NFL playoffs. In May of 2012, he staged a sit-in at the NFL offices in NYC in protest of Deflategate. Afterward, Portnoy was arrested while adorned in Patriots garb. It would be an irreconcilable act to sell the naming rights to a man that is so publicly an advocate for the New England Patriots, a team despised by the entire city of Buffalo- nay- the state of New York.

It would be an irreconcilable act to sell the naming rights to a man that is so publicly an advocate for the New England Patriots, a team despised by the entire city of Buffalo- nay- the state of New York.

Zeke Palermo

With that said, Portnoy has expressed his appreciation for the Buffalo Bills fanbase. In the past he has praised the Bills Mafia for its electric support of the team. However, his admiration does not come from a place of good. Instead, Portnoy has fetishized the Bills Mafia community. He is in love with the table-smashing, the insanity of the tailgates. What Portnoy fails to recognize is the origin of such lunacy. The passion exhibited by Bills fans that has gained national attention is a product of a deep-rooted love for not just the Bills, but the entire Buffalo area. His focus is actions that are representative of that love; not the love itself.

Aside from his sporting allegiances, it is also noteworthy that Portnoy, frankly, is a bad person. As recently as this year he has received accusations of misogyny and general toxicity in the workplace. Perhaps worse are the videos that circulated the internet this June. In them, Portnoy compared Colin Kaepernick to Osama bin Laden, used racial slurs, and defended the use of blackface.

While that alone should be a repellent, these repeat offenses directly contrast the values held by the people of Erie County. In 2016, County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed Title VI, also known as the Nondiscrimination Civil Rights Policy Statement.  It reads “It is the policy of the County of Erie to prevent and eliminate the discrimination in all of its operations and services.” Portnoy has openly and blatantly expressed a disinterest and stubborn unwillingness to abide by such inclusivity. To grant Portnoy or his subsidies the naming rights to one of Erie’s biggest attractions would be hypocritical to the values of Erie County and would reflect poorly on the Bills organization.

It is again, members of the Legislation, that I beseech you to vehemently reject any offer for the naming rights to Bills Stadium from either Dave Portnoy or Barstool Sports. The masses do not support such a move, but more importantly he and Barstool do not stand for the values the City of Buffalo- nor the County of Erie- represent.

Yours cordially,

Zeke Palermo




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