The City of Good Neighbors: The Giving Nature of Bills Mafia

The Buffalo Bills fan base has shown their dedication to their favorite sports team by providing to those in need.

Children receive a once in a lifetime experience sitting in the front row of a Buffalo Bills football game.

All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Children receive a once in a lifetime experience sitting in the front row of a Buffalo Bills football game.

On December 31st, 2017, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Miami Dolphins 22 to 16 in the last game of the NFL regular season. After the game, the victorious team nervously waited in their locker room, watching the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Baltimore Ravens. If the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the playoff-hopeful Ravens, the Bills would replace the Ravens in the playoff bracket. With 53 seconds left in the game, the Bengals were on their 4th down and 12 at the Baltimore 49 yard line, trailing by three points. This was the Bengals’ last chance to score, with the Bills’ playoff dreams on the line. As the Buffalo teammates watched the game together in silence, they witnessed Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton, throw a 49 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Boyd, securing a Bengals win and the Bills’ spot in the playoffs. The Bills players erupted with joy. This was the first time the team had gone to the playoffs in 17 years. 

Within two days of this game, Buffalo football fans showed their gratitude to the Cincinnati team by donating roughly $250,000 to the Bengals quarterback’s charity foundation, the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation, which assists ill children in Cincinnati, Ohio and Fort Worth, Texas. The fans donated money in increments of $17 to give thanks to the quarterback for ending the team’s 17 year playoff drought. By August of 2018, the fans donated more than $400,000 to Dalton’s foundation.

The Buffalo Bills are known for having one of the most devoted fan bases in the league. The fan base, nicknamed “Bills Mafia,” has demonstrated this dedication through their recurring donations to those in need. Well-known members of Bills Mafia have organized several charity events for a variety of organizations and people, ranging from children in hospitals to injured football players, even those who do not play for the Bills. 

One of the more notable ongoing charity events is Damar Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation, a toy drive he set up in 2020. On January 2, 2023, the Bills and Bengals met to play one of the most important games of the season, as the winner would have the upper hand in playoff seeding. With 6 minutes left in the first quarter, the Bengals were up 73 and were moving the ball downfield. Joe Burrow, Bengal’s quarterback, completed a 13 yard pass to Tee Higgins, Bengal’s receiver, who was brought down by Damar Hamlin, Bills’ safety. Besides the contact made between Higgins’ head and Hamlin’s chest, the tackle initially seemed like a clean hit. The play was over, Hamlin stood up, before promptly falling backwards. Medics urgently stormed the field, administered CPR, and assisted Hamlin for about 10 minutes before he was taken to a hospital. His life-or-death injury shocked the nation, with many sending prayers for his recovery. During his time in the ICU, sports fans and players throughout the country donated to Hamlin’s Chasing M’s GoFundMe, raising over $9 million, millions of dollars over his initial goal of $2,500. Thankfully, Hamlin made a speedy recovery, and was released from the hospital after 11 days. On January 7th, Hamlin tweeted, “Putting love into the world comes back 3xs as much… thankful for everyone who has reached out and prayed. This will make me stronger on the road to recovery, keep praying for me!” Later the same day, he tweeted, “The love is felt, & extremely real. No matter race or religion everybody coming together in prayer!” 

On January 9th, the Bills played their first game since Hamlin’s injury against the New England Patriots. On each of the players’ jerseys, a patch of the number 3 was shown, Hamlin’s number, and before kickoff, Bills players ran on the field with flags reading “Pray for Damar.” The game was not only dedicated to Hamlin, but also to the Buffalo medical staff who saved his life. Before the game, a brief ceremony was held, honoring and thanking these first-responders. The Bills players went on to play their most emotional and meaningful game of their season, beating the Patriots 3523.

Prior to the game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke on WGR 550 Sports Radio, a local Buffalo radio station. After discussing Hamlin’s circumstances, Goodell went on to praise the Buffalo community. “This community is extraordinary and I’m proud to say I’m from Western New York. They’re resilient. People here are tough, they’re people who want to do the right thing all the time… and I admire that.” Goodell is referencing the multiple times that the Buffalo community took charge in helping those in need, showing their caring nature. 

On January 16th, 2021, the Buffalo Bills beat the Baltimore Ravens 17 to 3 in the AFC Divisional playoff game. The Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, left the game in the third quarter due to a concussion. Just two days later, Jackson was greeted by 13,600 donations from the Bills Mafia to one of his favorite charities, Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food on the weekends to young children. According to their website, “On average, $150 will feed one child on the weekends for one 38-week school year through the Blessings in a Backpack program.” Donations from the Buffalo football fanbase alone have surpassed $360,000. 

Similarly, the Bills Mafia donated to Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, after he suffered from a concussion this year. During week 3 of this NFL season, Tagovailoa faced a hard hit from a Buffalo linebacker, resulting in him being taken out of the game for a concussion evaluation. Though he was seemingly stumbling on the field, medical professionals cleared him to play for the rest of the game, securing a win for the Miami team. The next week, the Dolphins played the Cincinnati Bengals. During this game, Tagovailoa was hit so hard that he was left unconscious, and was immediately hospitalized with a head and neck injury. After this second injury, thousands of Bills fans donated to the Tua Foundation, a charity focused on supporting “youth initiatives, health and wellness, and other charitable causes.” Tagovailoa has since recovered from his traumatic incident.

In a press conference interview with Tagovailoa after the Bills and Dolphins played each other for the second time this season (week 15; 3229 Buffalo), he thanked the Bills fans for their donations. “I’d also like to give a shout out to the Bills Mafia, and their fans. I remember when I had my concussion, they started a whole ordeal of donating to my foundation…I really appreciate that,” he said.

The strength and unity of the Bills Mafia community is incredibly apparent when going to Buffalo football games. (All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons )

When their own players are going through hardships, the Bills Mafia makes sure to help speed up their recovery, physical or emotional. When Buffalo player Dawson Knox lost his brother, Luke Knox, in September of this year, Buffalo fans donated more than $200,000 to the P.U.N.T. Pediatric Cancer Collaborative, a cause Dawson Knox has been supporting for many years.  

These donations do not just come from fans located in Buffalo. Bills fans come from all around the world and contribute to charities in their own ways. For example, the Scottish Bills Mafia, founded by Jason Hoffman, has a Scottish Bills Mafia merchandise company that donates its proceeds to local Buffalo charities. The mini fanbase has its own Facebook group, consisting of mainly Buffalo football fans from Scotland and fans from North America with Scottish roots. Through social media, Hoffman was able to promote his online store and increase sales. So far, he has raised more than $1,600. 

When asked how he chooses where the money he raises is donated to, Hoffman responded, “We started out giving money to the Patricia Allen fund at the Oishei [children’s hospital] as it seemed the right thing to do. And we’ve continued to donate to them. After the terrible shooting at Tops earlier this year, I was made aware of the charity Rooted in Love and we decided to give them funds too.” 

The Patricia Allen Fund was created by Josh Allen, quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, and his family in memory of his grandmother. After hearing of his grandmother’s passing in November 2020, Bills fans donated to the Oishei Children’s Hospital, a hospital supported by Josh Allen, in $17 increments, representing his jersey number. According to WGRZ, a television station located in Buffalo, Patricia Allen had spent much of her life devoting time to children, making donations to a children’s hospital fitting. By December 2020, donations surpassed $1 million. 

Hoffman also referenced the Tops shooting, a racially motivated shooting in a Buffalo supermarket that occurred on May 14th, 2022, killing 10 Black people and injuring 3 others. After the shooting, the Rooted in Love nonprofit organization dedicated to providing food, hygiene products, and shelter to low-income residents of Western New York, received an influx of donations, both food and money, contributing to their community fridge. 

Though Hoffman lives on an entirely different continent, he still manages to feel at home when in Buffalo. “Although we are a Scottish group, we were very keen to be seen to be part of the wider Buffalo community. I’ve personally been to WNY many times and have good friends there…As much as I enjoy going to the games, I really enjoy the social aspect of spending time with fellow Bills Mafia,” he said.   

Similar to Scottish Bills Mafia, the merchandising company 26 Shirts makes “limited edition Buffalo-themed t-shirts that give back!” Each time someone purchases a new shirt, a donation is made to local Buffalo families. According to their website, as of December 2022, they have raised more than $1.5 million. 

The city of Buffalo is small, compared to many sports teams, but Bills Mafia has proven to be one of the most dedicated sports fanbases. This devotion is not just shown during tailgates or when cheering on the Buffalo Bills players, but also when providing for those in need. The Bills Mafia community spreads worldwide, and connects people together from various backgrounds. The Buffalo football fanbase has been able to step up for those experiencing rough times, and have consistently been successful. 

“This community is extraordinary and I’m proud to say I’m from Western New York. They’re resilient. People here are tough, they’re people who want to do the right thing all the time… and I admire that,” said Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL.