Benson to boycott Baton Rouge after 'total disaster'
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints owner Tom Benson sent an angry email to the NFL yesterday, stating that he will not return to Baton Rouge for any Saints games there this season or "a contemplated next season."
In his email to the league (click here for full email), Benson labeled Sunday's trip to Baton Rouge "a total disaster." He also wrote that he wanted the league "to know of this miserable experience and disappointment to me after I had tried to cooperate in every way."
His stated reasoning?
After calling Tiger Stadium security "inadequate to nonexistent," Benson asserted that he and his family "could have all been severely injured or killed."
He felt this way primarily because, as he wrote, he was heckled, and that obscenities were shouted at him by a "hostile crowd."
(Was he expecting to be showered with praise and adulation for his handling of the Saints' situation?)
More from the email:
"I will not return to Baton Rouge for any reason, including any games scheduled for the end of this season or a contemplated next season. No person, much less the owner of NFL team, should have either he, his family or his friends subjected to this form of danger, intimidation and abuse. I was advised not to go but wanted to support the League."WWL-TV reporter Lee Zurick, who was near his station's camera when it was attacked by Benson on Sunday, said, "(Benson's) life was definitely not in danger. No one went after him. He went after people."
Ironically, LSU officials had inquired on whether Benson would need additional security, and were turned down after being told Benson had his own personal bodyguards coming.
Presumably, "not returning to Baton Rouge for any reason" includes not meeting with state officials about returning the team to New Orleans.
Not that he wanted to anyway.
Benson's email also curiously noted that he was "advised not to go, but wanted to support the league," and that he had "tried to cooperate in every way."
In other words, Benson was forced to go back to Louisiana, which runs completely contrary to his own previous full-page advertisements in the Times-Picayune and Baton Rouge Advocate.
Many suspected that to be the case anyway; this email serves to verify it.
This signifies a turn for the worse for Saints fans hoping the team will return. An email with this rhetoric, bashing Baton Rouge in such an amazing fashion, virtually ensures that ticket sales for the remaining three Saints games there will plummet.
Many alienated fans will have a serious problem supporting the Saints when they know it ultimately benefits Benson. Of course, if they do attend, the signs at the game will surely voice some response to Benson's latest snafu.
It also signifies yet another public relations black eye for the NFL. Benson has continued to act like a scolded three-year-old who's been told to go to his room, and not like an NFL owner with a shred of class or decency.
And that's why he has received such a wave of constant criticism and ridicule, not just from fans or sports columnists, but from Saints legends like Archie Manning, Dave Dixon, Bobby Hebert, and Jim Henderson.
Heck, even members of that committee the NFL formed to watch over him probably are grumbling amongst themselves right about now.
It also shows a lack of respect for NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who said Sunday that Benson "has been supportive of what I'm doing here (in Louisiana). He's going forward and working together with the governor and state officials and business leaders in these activities."
Not quite, Tags. Even your previous statements have gone unheeded by Benson.
Has Benson just gone right off the deep end?
This brings up a bigger question: can the NFL replace one of its own owners?
Because here's the thing: Benson has done not one thing right in this entire debacle. Not one.
Go ahead, try to think of something - anything - that Tommy Boy has done right since Katrina.
Even Tagliabue has to be getting fed up with these tirades.
Take the standard "pro sports owner p.r. handbook" and throw it into the fire.
Then, once it's burnt, go ahead and urinate on the ashes.
It's not the image the NFL wants to have. It's not the colleague NFL owners want to have. And it's certainly not the type of owner any team's fans would want to have.
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