BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula has denied making racist comments that were attributed to him in a lawsuit filed in a New York City court on Tuesday.
Pegula is mentioned multiple times in the lawsuit against the NFL and NFL Network, which was filed by former NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter.
One example alleges that Pegula said, in reference to player protests against racial injustice, “if the Black players don’t like it here, they should go back to Africa and see how bad it is.”
Pegula swiftly denied the allegation on Tuesday.
“The statement attributed to me in Mr. Trotter’s complaint is absolutely false. I am horrified that anyone would connect me to an allegation of this kind,” Pegula said in a statement. “Racism has no place in our society and I am personally disgusted that my name is associated with this complaint.”
The comments are alleged to have been made at a large NFL Media Zoom meeting in September 2020, where a reporter described a conversation he had with Pegula about the Black Lives Matter movement and player emphasis on social activism.
The suit alleges those comments were “swept under the rug” and the comments were not properly investigated by the league.
Trotter was let go by NFL Media in March. He alleges that this was due to him challenging NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others “regarding the NFL’s record of race discrimination and lack of diversity.”
Later in the lawsuit, Pegula is alleged to have called the “disenfranchisement” of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be a “media problem” that advocated for the NFL to hire a spokesperson to promote the league’s image, and is alleged to have suggested that the spokesperson be Black.
Pegula is alleged to have said, “For us to have a face, as an African-American, at least a face that could be in the media, we could be falling behind in that.” Those comments are alleged to have been made at an October 2017 meeting among owners, players and league executives.
The lawsuit also goes into different allegations regarding Damar Hamlin’s collapse during a Bills-Bengals game on Monday Night Football in January, claiming that the NFL told players that the game would resume after Hamlin left the game in an ambulance, following a five-minute warmup period. The NFL has denied these claims, but they were initially given to ESPN to report on-air.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is also mentioned in the suit, as well as former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, former Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney and several high-level NFL employees.
Pegula owns both the Bills and Sabres, as well as the Buffalo Bandits, Rochester Americans and Rochester Knighthawks. He purchased the Sabres in 2011 and the Bills three years later in 2014.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.