Buffalo Bills fans are back at it again.
The fanbase is known most for getting rowdy at tailgates, but the "Bills Mafia" group also an incredibly generous one. This week it channeled its irritation at the lack of a late pass interference call into $40,000 raised for a local visual impairment charity.
How did this start?
Bills fans were up in arms Sunday night when Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis had his arms all over Bills receiver Stefon Diggs on an important third-and-2 play late in regulation. The Bills trailed 27-24 at the time and the contact occurred on the goal line.
No flag was called, the Bills could only tie the game up and the Buccaneers went on to win in overtime. Now sitting at 7-6, their playoff chances took a hit and are currently at 65%, per the New York Times' The Upshot.
Bills fans were angry in the aftermath at the missed call that could have sent them home with a victory against their heated rival Tom Brady and better playoff positioning. But as they've done before, they turned that energy into a positive.
Bills fan donates in honor of refs
The movement began when Hunter Schinabeck, a Massachusetts-based Bills fan, made a $17 donation to Visually Impaired Advancement (VIA), a Buffalo non-profit that works with the visually impaired in the community.
The organization shared on Twitter what he wrote alongside his donation:
Thank you, #BillsMafia members, for donating $17!
While we recognize that NFL referees are not visually impaired, $17 makes an impact on VIA to help individuals who are visually impaired. If you would like to donate to VIA, go to https://t.co/YzjDkTzPaH.#LetsGoBuffalopic.twitter.com/uCCT1pDBgb
— VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement (@viawny) December 14, 2021
"It is saddening to witness someone being unable to see the blatant pass interference on Stefon Diggs (Buffalo Bills, #14). Hopefully, this donation is a small step in the greater fight of fighting blindness and getting those with visual impairment the help they need so something like this never happens again."
Samantha Burfiend, marketing and communications manager for VIA, told the Buffalo News they shared it because they believed it would be a "great educational piece."
"Now it has absolutely snowballed into something much greater than I could imagine," Schinabeck wrote on Instagram.
Visually impaired charity donations take off
Donations started coming in in $17 increments, a nod to quarterback Josh Allen's jersey number. As of Thursday, more than $40,000 in donations have come into the charity. An anonymous donor matched the first 500 $17 donations for a total donation of $8,500, per the Buffalo News.
A total of 1,200 people donated as of Wednesday, per the News. The increments included $14 for Diggs and $31 for the sum of the quarterback and receiver's numbers.
The attention from the donations also provides a new level of awareness for the organization.
“This is getting us back into the community,” Burfiend said, via the Buffalo News. “Maybe there is someone who’s visually impaired … and they can find us, and they can give us a call, and we can help them and support them, and using donations toward that support.”
Burfiend told the News the money will go toward education, vision rehabilitation, job training, job placement and support for all ages and all types of vision loss.
Bills fans raising money for charities
It's becoming a welcome trend for Bills fans to donate to charities after major moments.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson left last season's playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills with a concussion. Afterward, a fan organized a fundraiser on Reddit and fans raised more than $360,000 for Jackson's charity. Many were made in increments of $8 or $17 for Jackson and Allen's jersey numbers.
In August 2020, it was for Dolphins quarterback and former Bills leader Ryan Fitzpatrick following the death of his mother. They raised more than $1 million for Oishei Children's Hospital in honor of Allen's grandmother, Patricia Allen, who died last December.
One of the first charitable good deeds by the fanbase as a whole might have come in January 2018 when the team broke its streak of playoff-less seasons. The Cincinnati Bengals, led by a final-minute touchdown pass by Andy Dalton, defeated the Ravens to eliminate them and allow the Bills to clinch.
As a thank you, fans made donations of $17 denoting the playoff drought to The Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation. It added up to more than $415,000.