Bills Mafia: More Than Breaking Tables


Emma Stark, Staff Writer

It all started in November 2010 when a small group of fans: Del Reid, Breyon Harris, and Leslie Willie teased ESPN analyst Adam Schefter after making a day-late comment on a tweet posted by Bills wide receiver Stevie Johson. After being blocked by Schefter, Reid jokingly referred to the group as “The Bills Mafia.” The name quickly became an inside joke amongst fans and even received support from Green Bay Packers free-agent linebacker Nick Barnett several months later. Reid launched the @BuffaloFAMbase, the official Twitter account of the #BillsMafia, which now has over 117,000 followers. From there, the Bills Mafia never looked back.

On October 9, 2011, the inaugural “#BillsMafia Tweet Up” tailgate occurred before a Buffalo game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Around 70 people showed up, including the three Bills Mafia co-founders: Reid, Harris, and Willie. Now, hundreds of fans attend the annual Bills Mafia tailgates, while countless other Bills Mafia gatherings are held throughout Buffalo.

What I love about Bills Mafia is it is authentic. It started with Del, it started with our community. … Even though it’s a phrase that we’ve been using over the last several years, it’s more than just the words. It’s the family aspect of it,

— Buffalo Bills owner and president Kim Pegula


In November 2020, the day before a game against the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen lost his grandmother. Despite his grief, he played in the game, helping lead his team to a victory against the Seahawks. As soon as fans heard about the news the following day, they quickly responded by making donations in her memory to the Buffalo Oishei Children’s Hospital, an organization the quarterback has supported for years. Many fans chose to donate $17 at a time, the quarterback’s jersey number. In less than 24 hours, $100,000 had been donated to the hospital, which then doubled the next day. With support from other NFL fans, the Bills Mafia raised nearly $700,000. 

Shortly after, the hospital launched a new fund, the “Patricia Allen Fund,” in honor of Allen’s grandmother. The fund provides ongoing support to the pediatric critical care team who gives life-saving support to patients. Today, the fund contains over 1 million dollars. The west wing on the tenth floor, otherwise known as the sports floor, was renamed the “Patricia Allen Pediatric Recovery Wing.” A plaque of Allen pointing up at the sky in the Seahawks game is mounted on the wall next to Patricia’s name. The floor’s playroom was also renamed “The Buffalo Bills Fun Zone” in recognition of the support from Bills fans around the world. “I am humbled by the incredible generosity that has poured in over the past several days in honor of my grandmother. It means the world to me and my family and we are very grateful these donations will go toward helping save many lives for years to come,” Allen said.

After one of their best seasons yet, the Buffalo Bills made their way to the American Football League (AFC) 2021 divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. In the third quarter, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson left the game and was later ruled out due to a concussion. A few Bills fans took to Reddit and began donating to Jackson’s favorite charity, Blessing in a Backpack. This small group of fans gained support from Bills Mafia, along with others who were inspired to join the movement. In total, nearly half a million dollars went to the charity. The day after the game, Jackson tweeted his appreciation to Bills Mafia: “Means a lot not to only me but those kids as well. 

What happened during the Baltimore game, wasn’t a first for the Bills Mafia. At the end of the 2017 regular season, a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens would determine the Bills’ fate in the playoffs. On fourth-and-12 with 53 seconds left in the game, a last-minute 49-yard touchdown pass made by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver and teammate Tyler Boyd eliminated the Ravens from the playoffs giving the Bills a playoff spot for the first time in 17 years. After the Cincinnati win, Bills Mafia began making donations, mostly in increments of 17, to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation to show their appreciation. The foundation provides support and resources to seriously ill and physically challenged children in the Cincinnati and Fort Worth areas. The fans raised more than $415,000 and continued to donate through early 2018. 

As the 2020-2021 season continued, the Buffalo Bills faced the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the AFC Championship. After losing the game and losing their shot to compete in Super Bowl LV, Bills Mafia welcomed the team home in the parking lot of Buffalo Niagara International Airport on January 25. It was 2:30 a.m. and 5 degrees outside. Nothing was holding back these 500 fans in welcoming back their heroes after Sunday night’s 38-24 loss in Kansas City. Many fans brought “We Love You” and “We Still Billieve” signs as the crowd chanted “Let’s go, Buf-fa-lo!” awaiting the team’s return. 

Bills Mafia is a fan base unlike any other. However, the group is often portrayed negatively by other NFL fans. Crazed Bills fans are targeted for their wild yet foolish actions, especially during pregame tailgates. Jumping off cars, body slamming themselves onto tables, and even setting these tables on fire has been filmed and spread throughout social media. Yes, Bills fans are insane. There is no questioning that. Although what NFL fans don’t recognize nor understand is the true meaning behind the group. Bills Mafia is a community, a family. Win or lose, Bills fans will do whatever it takes to support their players. If that means showing up at an airport at 2:30 a.m. in 5-degree weather or sticking with the team since the very beginning, even after losing four consecutive Super Bowls, Bills fans will do it. As Bills Mafia says, “It’s more than a hashtag. It’s more than any one person. It’s a mindset. A way of life.”