Bills Cut "Aging" Equipment Manager
By Tony Farina
Athletes have a limited time to cash in on their skills, and that’s particularly true in football where age and injuries make players expendable, and the career-ending injury can happen at any time. Players and fans understand that part of the game, but should people like equipment managers expect to have their careers cut short because of age?
Apparently, the front office at One Bills Drive believes so, especially if it could hurt their all-important bottom line.
That’s the belief of Dave Hojnowski, the longtime equipment manager of the Buffalo Bills who is claiming in a federal lawsuit that he was “cut” by the Bills because he was too old at age 54 and because his wife asked about a health benefit he would be eligible to receive at age 55.
Come on. Could the Bills be that cheap? Hojnowski has been keeping the pads in shape for 35 years for the sorry franchise but apparently his lengthy service didn’t add up to a health benefit down the road, so the Bills fired him last year (they said he retired), prompting his lawsuit.
Andrew Fleming, Hojnowski’s lawyer, called the action by the Bills “simply awful,” and said the team’s general manager asked him during a meeting last year how old he was and when he intended to retire. Fleming says the comments by GM Buddy Nix tipped the team’s plans to get rid of the “old” guy, and that’s what they did.
Now in this writer’s mind, the Bills are guilty of a lot of things, especially their failure to field competitive teams. Year after year, loyal fans have had to endure bad teams and suffer the national scorn of being home to one of the worst franchises in league history. This franchise hasn’t made the playoffs in 13 years, and there’s good reason to believe it will soon be 14 straight.
Sources close to the team say Hojnowski (known by the players as Hojo) had little to do with the team’s awful play. The North Tonawanda senior citizen simply did his job and had the team’s equipment ready to go even if the players were not. So now Hojo has gotten his reward, claiming his age and the cost of the looming health benefit were the reasons the Bills cut him and went younger at the position after his wife asked about his potential health benefit.
If it seems heartless, that’s because that’s the way it looks. The Bills, as usual, won’t talk about why they dropped Hojo, just as they won’t talk about much of their financial business dealings including their new “home” game agreement in Toronto. One is left to speculate, although the dots connect quite easily in the Hojo affair. It was a business decision to save a few bucks at Hojo’s expense. Never mind his long years of service for the team or his loyalty in the locker room to all the bums that have come and gone over the years.
We’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out, but from here it looks like the Bills have some explaining to do in court. If he was good enough to keep around for 35 years, why couldn’t they have kept him a little longer so he could get his health benefit? Certainly, the Bills can afford it, but we know how important the bottom line is to this franchise. Good luck, Hojo?
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