Benson speaks, but says nothing; Benson-slamming continues; NFL to protect New Orleans?; L.A. continues NFL quest
"There have been numerous media reports this week regarding the future of the New Orleans Saints franchise.Whatever, Tommy Boy. You, sir, have proven yet again that you are a hypocrite in the worst way. Your actions (see here and here) have shown yourself willing to sell out your team's supporters and a place you have claimed to call home, at the worst possible time, for nothing but a few extra bucks to line your already-golden pockets.
"No one who has been quoted in these recent stories about the Saints' future was authorized to speak on my behalf.
"I would like to make it clear that no decisions have been made regarding our future plans and none will be made until after the 2005 season is concluded.
"There are many factors that will affect the future location of our team. However, that is also true of many other New Orleans-based companies that are faced with deciding their future homes. The next few months should provide all of us with a clearer picture which will help us make those decisions.
"Meanwhile, all of us in the organization are focused on making the playoffs and seeing that our remaining games in Baton Rouge and San Antonio are as successful as possible - both on and off the field."
Perhaps you're doing this because you realize you've got tickets to push in Baton Rouge.
Maybe NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has been in touch. I'm guessing he's about fed up with the public relations mangling you've done, and the black eye you're about to give the league.
But whatever you say now is irrelevant. You are several days late, sir, and your (and San Antonio's) classless actions this week render your tardy words utterly meaningless.
A host of sports columnists across the country are taking their shots at Benson over the San Antonio debacle.
Let’s start with long-time AP sports columnist Jim Litke, who skewers Tommy Boy over his disgraceful treatment of the state of Louisiana through the years. Litke points out, “now that Louisiana, struggling to recover from devastating back-to-back hurricanes, has nothing left to bribe him with, Benson apparently is turning his attention to San Antonio...If he ever made the move permanent, it would make Art Modell's sleazy end-run from Cleveland to Baltimore look almost honorable.”
Then there’s MSNBC columnist Ron Borges, who slams Benson in “Saints’ owner certainly isn’t a saint.” It’s worth a read, and asks an interesting question.
Who controls whether NFL franchises can move to other cities, the league or the team owner?
Cast aside the fact that relocation requires 24 of 32 owner votes, and the question is whether a situation even gets to that point.
Borges believes that if the NFL is the guide, the Saints aren’t going anywhere. To quote him, “Tagliabue made clear on several occasions that the league is not looking to move into additional secondary markets with Los Angeles still vacant. There is no way in which he'd allow Benson to take over that lucrative territory with the track record of incompetence he's put together in New Orleans.”
That coincides with Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Domowitch, who asserts that Tagliablue’s recent criticism of San Antonio was a warning shot to Benson to dissuade him from thinking about moving his Saints there.
Domowitch asserts that “Tagliabue is prepared to go to war on this. He is well aware of the major PR hit the NFL would take if it turned its back on a region that was brought to its knees by Katrina.”
Maybe they're onto something.
ESPN.com's John Clayton, a trusty NFL insider with deep information tentacles, penned the following in a recent column:
"Forget the Alamo: Tom Benson is handling the New Orleans situation all wrong. By firing key personnel who pushed to play games in Louisiana, he has completely alienated and scared officials in New Orleans into thinking that he will never bring the team back to the Superdome. Here's the problem: Benson has absolutely no support from commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the NFL about moving the team to San Antonio. The league considered the market too small and the stadium not good enough. Sure, it's an interim fix in San Antonio, but a full-time move to San Antonio will never be voted in by the NFL. The Saints owner better get some better advisors in the situation."Note to Benson and San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger: Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Another one to check out is this column from about.com, that knocks both San Antonio and Tom Benson for its actions.
From San Antonio, Hardberger continues to act as that city's chief vulture. According to ksat.com, Hardberger said that he "will use every effort I can to get the Saints here permanently," and that "San Antonio is ready to have a major league team, and now we have the opportunity to do that."
Funny how he views the "opportunity."
Maybe, if another terrorist attack occurs in New York, Hardberger can use that opportunity to go after the Mets or Yankees.
But I digress.
On the Los Angeles front, mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told reporters yesterday that after meeting with a representative of Tagliabue, he is optimistic that a decision on a franchise in L.A. will be made “sometime later this year or early next year.”
Also, the Coliseum continues to prepare itself to host an NFL franchise in the near future.
With NFL owners meeting this weekend in Kansas City, especially after all that has taken place this week, it will be interesting to see what occurs on the New Orleans/San Antonio/Los Angeles fronts.