Buffalo Bills unite a far-flung community, sending message of healing and hope, says UB sports law expert and avid Bills fan

Release Date: January 22, 2021

Nellie Drew head shot.
“In a region and a fan base – more of a Mafia, actually – starved for good news, a seed of hope began to grow. ”
Helen "Nellie" Drew, director
University at Buffalo Center for the Advancement of Sport

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Bills’ success has sown a “seed of hope” and become a path to build a community amid the isolation and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s according to University at Buffalo sports law expert – and devoted Bills fan – Helen “Nellie” Drew, director of UB’s Center for the Advancement of Sport.

Drew’s legal expertise runs the gamut, from NCAA compliance and Title IX matters to facility construction, discipline of professional athletes, collective bargaining, and research and litigation on sports-related concussions.

It also extends into fandom, as Drew, a longtime Buffalo area resident, can attest to.

“Here in Western New York, the march of months brought pain, suffering, tremendous economic loss, political strife and civil unrest,” says Drew. “But as the NFL’s truncated preseason unfolded, hope sprang anew as it does annually. This year, however, was different.

She adds: “In a region and a fan base – more of a Mafia, actually – starved for good news, a seed of hope began to grow. And as week followed week, with win upon win, Allen-Diggs signs springing up across the landscape, a new certainty took root: This was finally our year.”

Bills fans have shown their passion and kindness through charitable donations made in honor of the late grandmother of Bills quarterback Josh Allen, as well as Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was knocked out of last week’s game with a concussion. “That’s over $1.4 million raised in a blue-collar community in a pandemic to support children in need,” Drew says.

 “The team is young, fun and engaging. Josh Allen resonates with Buffalo: the underdog, tremendously hardworking, and down to earth,” Drew says. “The offensive coordinator is a local St. Francis grad. The head coach’s team motto, ‘humble and hungry,’ applies to the fan base as well.”

The lucky 6,700 fans allowed in the stadium the last two weeks are a small sliver of the franchise’s fans, she says, noting that families and friends are connecting locally, nationwide and even around the world, according to Drew.

“Parents are enjoying the Bills first postseason success with adult children ex-pats. ‘This is what it was like in the ‘90s,’ they say, digging out the Kelly-era sweatshirts,” she says. “While we look forward to the day when we can return and cheer our team 70,000 strong and, yes, break some tables, we will never forget that we are part of something much larger and more important.”

An extended version of this report is available at the following link: http://www.buffalo.edu/ubnow/stories/2021/01/drew-bills.html.

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