‘Times-Pic’ Begs Pro Football Owner to Keep Saints in City

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By: E&P Staff

In an editorial today, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans took aim at Tom Benson, owner of the local pro football team, the hapless Saints, virtually begging him to not move the team out of the city permanently.

A news story in the same Monday print edition observed that Benson, now in San Antonio, has been “conspicuously silent about the impact of Katrina on his football team’s hometown and its residents.” It noted that reports had surfaced that the team’s management is considering pulling out of the city and relocating, perhaps permanently, to San Antonio, where Benson has a business interests and a ranch outside of the city.

In his New York Times column today, Dave Anderson reports another “theory” that the team will move to Los Angeles permanently.

Here is the Times-Picayune editorial.

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The people of the New Orleans area “battered, grieving and homeless” are in desperate need of something to hold onto. Something to ease their broken hearts and nourish their spirits.

Saints owner Tom Benson can give them that something. He can choose, and we fervently hope he will, to play this fall’s home games at LSU’s Tiger Stadium.

Saints fans are among the most loyal in the NFL. For 38 years, they have embraced this team whether it won or lost, and the losses almost always outnumbered the wins. Mr. Benson owns this team, and it is his business. But this is our team, too, at least in spirit. What other fans would pack the Superdome year after year despite lackluster win/loss records? Don’t these devoted people deserve that sort of dedication in return?

This metro area has suffered the worst natural catastrophe in the nation’s history. People who were helpless to get out of the way of the storm died in our beloved Superdome. The Dome is wrecked, and it is a place known for misery right now. But it can be refurbished. Its rebuilding can be a hopeful sign to the hundreds of thousands of residents who have been scattered across the region by Hurricane Katrina – people who have lost not only loved ones and homes, but their entire community.

The Saints have been a source of that sense of community since the day they first walked on the field. They bring us together in a way nothing else does.

The NFL doesn’t want the Saints to leave. As after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the New York Giants chose to stay in their ravaged city, the league sees the Saints as a balm for wounded souls.

Surely the players don’t want to leave. Receiver Joe Horn spent three hours touring the Astrodome on Saturday, signing autographs for children and giving the 15,000 displaced storm survivors something to smile about.

And it is difficult to believe Mr. Benson would want to leave, despite reports to the contrary. He has talked in recent months about how much he loves New Orleans, about his desire to stay here, and we take him at his word.

Before Katrina, Saints fans wanted their team to stay. Now they need it to stay.

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