Although the team bears the Buffalo name and plays in Orchard Park, the Buffalo Bills are an integral part of communities throughout Western New York.
On Monday evening, football fans across the country got a glimpse of our region’s support for the team from a member of our own community. Bills Mafia co-founder and Bills Mafia Babes treasurer Leslie Wille was featured in a pregame video during ESPN’s Monday Night Football show last Monday.
“Applauding the Bills has always been a family affair” Wille told ESPN in the video with his kids at the Russell Joy Park playground.
“It was important to me that if we did this, we did it locally here in town,” said Fredonia resident Wille.
Wille was at the game on Monday night, so she didn’t see herself on screen at the same time as the national audience. Still, that didn’t stop her from receiving an immediate response when her face appeared on the screens of millions of people across the country.
“I knew it had aired because I was sitting at the game and all of a sudden my phone was exploding with messages,” Wille said.
Wille said ESPN reached out because of her charitable work in the community with the Bills Mafia Babes and the work she previously did with the first nonprofit Bills Mafia, which is no longer operational. . She was instrumental in forming Bills Mafia Babes and serves as a board member in the organization’s goal of promoting, supporting and welcoming female fans of the team and the sport of soccer, while supporting the community through charity.
“I wore my Bills Mafia Babes jersey because I wanted to represent this organization and the female fans of the NFL,” she says. “Bills Mafia Babes started out as an online community as well as a space for female fans, because often for women talking about the sport it can feel like a hostile environment, especially online.”
The Bills Mafia Babes partner with a player each month throughout the year to support a charity or cause close to their hearts. The original Bills Mafia group began over a decade ago, and now that the phrase has been embraced by the team, the charity work continues through the Bills Mafia Babes. “It was a grassroots move that picked up momentum very quickly once a few players caught wind of it. Then it snowballed. she says.
Having ESPN in town was nothing new for Wille, who has previously been on TV with ESPN and with Pepsi for a commercial. She was also shown Monday before the game on ESPN standing atop a vehicle with a group of fans stalking her as a fan known as Pinto Ron was doused in ketchup and mustard.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been involved in something like this, so it wasn’t a huge shock to the system, but it’s still completely surreal. I don’t think he’ll ever lose this excitement. Wille said.
For Wille, the bright lights of primetime television were just another platform for his favorite team to show off their talents to the nation.
“Everyone is going to see what we’ve seen from the start,” Wille told ESPN in the video released near kickoff.
What everyone saw that night was one of the most nationally dominant performances the league has had in years, a blowout 41-7 victory by the Bills over the Tennessee Titans – the team with the best record in the AFC last season. With a statement like that, it won’t be the only time Western New York has been showcased on a major national stage.
“We’ve been looking forward to bringing this trophy home for a long, long time,” Wille told ESPN.