Did Buffalo Bills Players Break Laws During State Of Emergency?
The City of Buffalo will be digging out from their pre-Christmas blizzard for weeks, at least. Emergency personnel are still trying to determine a death toll from the horrific storm. Stories of trapped citizens begging for help, waiting for emergency crews delayed by abandoned vehicles that became large snow mounds in the middle of roads, have been all too common.
However, with the city of Buffalo in the midst of a deadly blizzard and a governor declared state of emergency, including a complete travel ban, the Buffalo Bills players were videoed driving out of the team parking lot on Christmas day, after their bus arrived from Rochester. According to one official, all of this was done without permission.
Many in western New York wanted to travel to see family or check on elderly or compromised loved ones during the storm. They were prohibited by state and local officials from any non-emergency travel. According to Geoff Herbert of syracuse.com, after the videos of Bills players digging out and leaving with piles of snow on their cars, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz made sure that the public knew that the Bills players were not given permission to be on the roads during the ban. Poloncarz told WGRZ in Buffalo, “They were not allowed to travel. I don’t want anyone to think that Erie County gave preferential treatment to the Bills.”
According syracuse.com, Bills executive vice president and COO Ron Raccuia told The Buffalo News that "we did not ask for or receive special treatment. We would not do that.” However, a state police spokesperson told the Buffalo News that the Bills asked for a state police escort from Rochester Airport, where the team landed after crushing the Chicago Bears, in single digit temperatures at Soldier Field, 35-13, on Christmas Eve, back to their facility in Buffalo. Syracuse.com noted that request was denied by state police, though the bus did receive some assistance from the state police and the Erie County sheriff's department for portions of the trip.
Traveling during a state of emergency isn't just about the person driving, it's about everyone else you can effect. If one of the players gets stranded in a vehicle, that can divert life-saving emergency services from someone else. Maybe someone that was following the laws. At this point, 37 people in the Buffalo area have died from this storm. Chances are, none of the deaths will be a result of the Buffalo Bills driving home to see their families on Christmas day. However, if the worst case scenario happened and someone was effected by 150 team members and staff getting into their cars when nobody was allowed to, then this would have been seen as a brazen and reckless decision made by Buffalo's NFL franchise. Did the players and staff break laws? It certainly appears that they did and may have put their own fans at risk.