ATLANTA — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Monday afternoon called expected Buffalo Bills bidder Jon Bon Jovi “a great friend” and an “outstanding” candidate to become an NFL owner.
“I don’t know of anyone that I have any more respect for as a father, or as a husband, or certainly as a potential business partner,” Jones told me in a scrum with NFL writers at the league’s spring meeting.
“And so it’s a credit to him that he’s had the career that he’s had, that he’s qualified to become an NFL owner. As we know, you can’t just wish for that. You have to be able to do something about that financially. So he’s an outstanding candidate to be an owner in the NFL, and he’s a great friend.”
As I’ve reported since the death of founding Bills owner Ralph Wilson in late March, Bon Jovi is indeed the front man of a Toronto group expected to bid on the club. Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of the Toronto-based Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment empire, is the other principal member of the group.
Later during Jones’ 22-minute scrum I asked him if other owners feel the same way, personally and professionally, as he does about Bon Jovi. Yes they do, Jones said.
Here’s a transcript of the portions of the scrum relevant to the future of the Bills, as asked by reporters who cover the team:
ON THE FUTURE OF BILLS (asked by Adam Benigni of Buffalo TV station WGRZ):
“Well you know out of respect for Ralph Wilson and respect for everything that he’s meant for the NFL, a Hall of Fame owner but in my mind one of the founders of the NFL, I don’t want to get ahead of things at all and comment about the future of the Bills.
“I know this: personally I’m grateful for the great fans and support for NFL football that we have in Northern New York, and certainly as it is right now, they’re in the Toronto market area. Having said that, that will sort itself out by people who are going to be closer to it than I am. From the standpoint of what the Buffalo Bills mean to the NFL, they are not only part of its heritage but certainly a part of what makes this game what it is today.
“Now having said all of that, we will always will be looking for ways (of not only) growing the pie but also growing the fanbase, to the extent that you can involve more fans on any team location, that’s something to consider.”
ON YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH JON BON JOVI AND HIS DESIRE TO BECOME AN NFL OWNER (asked by me):
“Well two things. Number 1, Jon Bon Jovi is first-class. You shouldn’t equate talent, or you shouldn’t equate (creativity) in any way compromising solid, sound … who you’d want to live by your next door, a true American citizen. And Jon Bon Jovi is that. I don’t know of anyone that I have any more respect for as a father, or as a husband, or certainly as a potential business partner. And so it’s a credit to him that he’s had the career that he’s had, that he’s qualified to become an NFL owner. As we know, you can’t just wish for that. You have to be able to do something about that financially. So he’s an outstanding candidate to be an owner in the NFL, and he’s a great friend.”
ON PROSPECT OF RELOCATING BILLS TO TORONTO (asked by Benigni):
“Well, first of all you said it in the question. That’s sheer speculation. I don’t want to speculate. I do want to emphasise that what Ralph Wilson built — the legacy of what the Bills are in Northern New York — is something that has a lot of strength, a lot of consideration relative to the NFL, and relative to me. And so all of those things have to be considered.
“We certainly want to create every opportunity we can to involve more fans. At the end of the day it’s my town against your town, Cowboys against whoever we’re playing. And so to the end that we can create rivalries, to the end that we can involve larger viewing audiences, populations — that’s something that you have to look at.”
ON TORONTO AS A MARKET, IN LIGHT OF BILLS-IN-TORONTO FAILURE (asked by Tim Graham of the Buffalo News):
“I do know first-hand that football is and can be even more so a very enthusiastically followed sport in Toronto. I know that because a lot of Toronto follows the Buffalo Bills. I’m not familiar enough with that market to know the dynamics relative to what might happen if the Bills end up in Toronto. But what I can tell you is there’s a lot of respect for the Bills, Ralph Wilson — one of the founders of the NFL, in my mind. I go that far with it. There’s a lot of positive things to think about relative to Buffalo. On the other hand, they’re a market that are real close, so that in and of itself would be some of the impetus that creates a discussion about Toronto.”
DO YOU BELIEVE, AS COMMISSIONER DOES, THAT BILLS NEED A NEW STADIUM IN BUFFALO? (asked by Benigni):
“Yes I do. I know first-hand how impactful a new stadium can be, a state-of-the-art stadium that can and tries to create not only amenities but as many fan experiences as you can with technology and just the fact that this is 2014, as opposed to when some of the older stadiums were built.
“Having said that, that doesn’t take away from the fans themselves. And I know how excited they can be in a stadium that wasn’t built just last week. I do, though, think that every team needs to look at how they can continually be as fan-friendly as they can. And I can tell you first-hand that an outstanding stadium is an outstanding step in that direction.”
DO OTHER NFL OWNERS SHARE YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL RESPECT FOR JON BON JOVI? (asked by me):
“Yes. Yes. Yes. He knows many of the owners, personally. All owners know of him. But he knows them personally. He’s committed, he’s very genuine. You talk about individuals and talk about their qualification — there hasn’t been anybody more qualified to be involved in sports ownership, or certainly ownership in the NFL, than Jon Bon Jovi.”