Two prominent elected officials met in Buffalo's City Hall Thursday to renew their commitment to fostering more diversity in local business and labor. They both praised the Buffalo Bills for leading by example with their hire of the National Football League's first-ever female full-time assistant coach.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz were renewing their commitment to Buffalo's Opportunity Pledge, which encourages more diversity in businesses and organizations.
Given the timing of the Buffalo Bills' announcement the night before that they've promoted a woman to a full-time assistant coaching position, both leaders faced a question whether Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula might join them one day to sign the Opportunity Pledge.
Both praised the Bills organization for their move but added that the team owners already have a history of honoring diversity in the workplace.
"I guess we shouldn't really be surprised with the owners of the Bills, being Terry and Kim Pegula," Poloncarz said. "I know Kim Pegula is not just an owner in the background. She plays an integral role in the daily operations associated with the Buffalo Bills."
Before the Pegulas bought the Bills in 2014, the couple were developing HarborCenter next door to First Niagara Center, where their other major league sports property, the Buffalo Sabres, play their home games. Mayor Byron Brown pointed to HarborCenter as another example of the Pegulas' respect for diversity.
"There were significant goals in the building of HarborCenter for minority and female employee participation and minority and women-owned business participation," Brown said.
The Bills' promotion of Kathryn Smith to a full-time assistant coaching job is not the first time the organization has elevated a woman to a prominent football role. Back in 1986, then-owner Ralph Wilson hired his daughter, Linda Bogdan, as the NFL's first female scout.