By Tim Graham
This is a monster memo, and it made my head hurt at points. But here is Sen. Charles Schumer's letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, unedited and in its entirety ...
Dear Commissioner Goodell:
I write today to ask you to consider amending the League-Level G4 Loan Program in a way that will make it possible for the Buffalo Bills to take advantage of the programs benefits without harming the league or the other teams in the program. As you know, I have been a longtime supporter of the Buffalo Bills and have continually advocated for initiatives that will help keep them in Buffalo. I am also aware that you have been a staunch advocate for the Bills and I know that you remain committed to continuing to ensure their viability in western New York. As the Bills work with local officials to finalize a new lease agreement for Ralph Wilson Stadium the opportunity for you to once again demonstrate your commitment to the success of the Bills in Buffalo has presented itself.
As you may know, the terms of the new lease agreement are still being negotiated but it is likely that they will require a significant investment in Ralph Wilson Stadium on the part of the team, and the local taxpayers. The G4 Loan Program is designed to help teams and communities offset that investment by providing loans for stadium upgrades that are then repaid through visiting team ticket revenue over a number of years. This program could be of tremendous benefit to the Buffalo Bills and local taxpayers because it would match any stadium investment the Bills make between $25M and the total costs of renovations. However, one clause in the loan program could prevent the Bills from taking advantage of this program and would then put further financial burdens on both the team and taxpayers.
The current program requires that the loan be repaid in full upon the sale of the team. This clause is a reasonable way for the league to protect itself from someone buying a team for a short period of time, taking advantage of the loan, and then liquidating the team and turning a profit. However, in the case of the Bills, the team could be likely to be sold at some point during the life of the loan but not for the purpose of a quick profit. By requiring the loan be due on sale we make it disadvantageous for the Bills ownership to utilize the program. However, a simple amendment like the one that already exists in the League's Revenue Sharing Program would allow for the team to take advantage of the program and would also help keep the Bills in Buffalo for the long term. The 'due on sale' clause of the G4 Loan Program should be amended to include the same exception that the revenue sharing qualifier includes: it does not apply for teams who are being sold by a principal owner that has owned the team for at least twenty years. Another option would be to amend the G4 Loan Program due on sale clause to not apply in a situation where the sale of the team results from the estate sale of the principal owner. Either of these exceptions would still protect the program from those looking to turn a quick profit while allowing teams like the Bills to take advantage of the programs benefits.
Furthermore, the G4 Loan Program has a 'due on relocation' clause that I would ask you not to amend. By amending the due on sale clause and making it possible for the current Bills ownership to access the program while also protecting the due on relocation clause it could create an additional financial penalty to any new owner who tried to move the team during the life of the loan. That new owner could then be confident that as long as they keep the team in Buffalo they could continue to use visiting team ticket revenue to pay down the balance of the loan but should they decide to move the team they would need to pay off the balance of the loan using their own funds right away.
By making this change you can help offset the burden on local taxpayers and the team, you can help Ralph Wilson Stadium get the upgrades it needs, and perhaps most importantly you can help ensure that there will be yet another reason to keep the Bills in Buffalo even after they are sold. Thank you so much for your consideration and continued support of the Buffalo Bills.