Dear Kim –
Sometimes you need a girlfriend to pull you aside and say, “Psst, you have something in your teeth,” or, “Your shirt is inside out.” (Trust me, I’ve been there.)
Well, as a fellow Rochester-bred gal, I need to pull you aside and let you know there’s something wrong with that football team you bought.
You let go of your head coach, Rex Ryan, before the final week of the season, over an alleged disagreement over the status of quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the last week of the season. You, your husband, Terry, nor your general manager, Doug Whaley, wouldn’t talk after the act, sending the media-naive interim coach, Anthony Lynn, out to hold a press conference instead. Sending the newbie out to address decisions he had no hand in making feels like sending the interim out on the coffee run on his very first morning: you’re just hoping not too many venti lattes get spilled on the poor kid’s brand new dress shirt. What were your thoughts afterward? Oh, good, the newbie survived the only press availability anyone of power in this organization is going to have the week we fired our head coach. Whew. Close one.
Then, after your team loses to the New York Jets (a rivalry loss should bug any upstate-raised gal immensely – they aren’t even in New York!) you and Terry, allowed the reason you might be in this hot mess to begin with, general manager Doug Whaley, hold as embarrassing of a press conference that there ever has been in the NFL. He isn’t involved in firing the head coach? He hasn’t even thought about it? He may have spoken to Lynn about the odd QB situation against the Jets? He may not have? To quote one meme I saw, “What is it that you say you do here, Doug Whaley?”
You spoke to WGR 550 Monday, and your husband spoke to the Associated Press, and that was it. You won’t talk further, and Whaley says that it will be his job in the off-season to represent the Bills to the media. But if he doesn’t make key decisions, and doesn’t seem to know the moving parts behind them, then why throw him to the media? You might be better off having a PR person step to the podium. They are at least trained to spin things positively.
The whole thing seems rather…um…how can I say this nicely…dysfunctional.
This is where you come in. Kim, you have come so far, and I don’t know if you understand how much of a role model you are to some women. Left as a child on a street corner in South Korea and adopted by a family in Rochester, you worked hard, had grand ideas, raised a family and helped your husband build an empire. You now are one of the only female owners in professional sports.
This is where you need to thrive. Despite great strides over the past few decades, women in business often have to work harder to prove themselves. That’s exactly what the organization you bought needs right now. Though Ralph Wilson was a legend, the last few years of his ownership of the Bills were largely absentee. Your ownership needs to make up for that lost time. You need to work harder than any other owner in the NFL right now to make Buffalo right again. Part of that will be fixing football operations, and that may mean cutting Whaley loose. Another part of it is using your background in communications and explaining what exactly is going on to the media, and in turn, the fans.
And that should be your motivation: the fans. You grew up amongst them, and you know that they are the most loyal fanbase for the least reasons in the NFL. They pack your stadium in the worst of weather, they line up to get a spot to tailgate in your parking lots 36 hours before kickoff, they wear their gear despite the team’s record and they stood by four straight years of horrible heartbreak. They do this all even though their region’s economy is crackling under their feet and their state government has abandoned them. The Bills are their outlet, their chance to escape all that has gone sour in every other place in their lives.
Kim, take the wheel. Take the wheel and speed the Bills out of that laughing stock spot. You have come so far personally, and now it’s time to take that tenaciousness and claw the Bills out of the bottom. You’re a survivor, a mother and a successful businesswomen. If anyone has the guts and grit to do this, it’s you.
You can do this.
Your friend in pop and lake effect,