Buffalo Bills owner Kim Pegula said Friday that she attempts to seek a compromise between players looking to use the NFL as a platform for social change and the potentially adverse impact activism might have on business that she believes players might not realize.
Speaking on a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, Pegula was asked whether social activism by players is good for the business of sports.
“My own experience, I think a lot of it is just communication,” she said. “I know that’s easy to say. But I know that several of our players, when I actually talked to them and actually gave them a different perspective — just like they were trying to give us a different perspective — on the impact of the business and what the impact is of what they do socially, off the game, at home and then how that affects the business side. They didn’t grow up in the sports business world. They came in on the players’ side.
“So a lot of [Bills players] just didn’t understand or know the impact that it had on the business, the organization and the community – good or bad. So I do think there’s definitely an impact. I wouldn’t shy away from it at all. I think there is a common ground. I think a lot of it is more about communicating and learning from each other on both sides and coming to some type of a compromise at some point. Sometimes you won’t be able to come to a compromise. But something usually gets done when that happens.”
Pegula and her husband, Bills owner Terry Pegula, met with a group of Bills players the evening prior to a Sept. 24 game against the Denver Broncos to address controversial comments made that week by Donald Trump about NFL player protests.
The Pegulas later released a statement calling Trump’s comments “divisive and disrespectful” and saying the organization tried to use them as an opportunity to “further unify our team.”
About a dozen Bills players knelt during the national anthem Sept. 24, and a smaller group of players continued to kneel the following week.
Asked Friday about what in sports business “keeps [her] up at night,” Pegula cited the impact of social and political issues.
“It’s the ability of one person who is unknown to be able to make a change or influence, or at least start something that we didn’t even know as ownership who that person was in this world,” Pegula said. “How they’re now influencing some of the decisions that we now have to worry about, and some of the things that we have to look at that doesn’t have to do with just sports – [that is] the product on the field, which is what we are working toward.
“But at the same time, knowing that there’s all these things that are coming at you that don’t have to have to necessarily affect your sport but is not related directly. They are influencing it.”