In a shocking announcement, the Buffalo Bills announced late Wednesday that New Era Cap Company has asked to be released from their sponsorship contract and the naming rights to the Bills’ Stadium, and the two sides are currently “negotiating the details of this separation.”
New Era was founded in 1920 in Buffalo as the E. Koch Cap Company, and has remained in western New York as the brand has grown into a billion-dollar business that includes being an exclusive provider for MLB, NFL, and NBA apparel, as well as the owner (until now) of the naming rights for the soon-to-be former New Era Field since 2016.
However, New Era came under fire last week from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who said he would no longer call the Bills’ stadium by name after the company made the decision to lay off 117 people, nearly one-third of its Buffalo workforce, despite securing millions of dollars in business loans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Their name should no longer be on the stadium if they're going to continue to layoff our employees and say 'sorry,'" Poloncarz said. "I'd rather see a stadium called Veterans Stadium than New Era. I won't even use that name. I still call it Ralph Wilson Stadium. I'm a little disappointed in the way New Era has treated our community. That company would not exist without the hard work of the people of this community."
Poloncarz admitted that his comments may have upset some in the Bills organization, and noted poor timing as the team and county are in the midst of negotiations for an extended lease on the Orchard Park facility, although Wednesday’s announcement may assuage that somewhat.