Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated spent the Buffalo Bills wild card game watching with other Bills fans at the Big Tree Inn. Just across from New Era Field in Orchard Park, Vrentas sat there and listened to peoples’ stories. One Bills fan in particular was watching his first Bills game of the season due to his participation in an NFL boycott during the regular season.
During the preseason, players across the league took a knee or raised their fists during the National Anthem to protest against racial injustices in this country. It crescendoed to a high point during Week 3, where players on every team participated in one way, shape, or form. That was followed by that was a slew of fans vowing not to watch any NFL games in attempt to boycott.
One of the original boycotters was long-time Buffalo Bills fan John Griveas, who didn’t wait until Week 3 to boycott, citing the protests during the preseason.
Griveas also makes a confession: He chose to boycott the 2017 regular season. A lifelong Bills fan and a Navy veteran, he decided after the preseason that he wouldn’t watch any NFL games this season on account of the national anthem demonstrations by some players around the league. He stuck to his word for 17 weeks, stashing all his Bills gear in the basement and finding other things to do on Sundays. But on New Year’s Eve, he and his partner, Jackie Lovern, walked into a family party seconds before that fourth-and-12 play. “And at that very moment, I thought to myself, OK, I lived up to my word,” he says, “and now it’s time to support these players again, because this is amazing.” He showed up at the Big Tree Inn wearing a Bills flag as his only covering over that Flutie jersey.
Griveas thinks he made his point, sticking to his guns all season. It’s understandable that this moment was transcendent for many. For a team who has put their fans and the city through hell and back for 17 drawn-out years, this playoff game was a can't-miss, apparently.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article contained a concluding paragraph we have removed. - MRW