Who dat got class? Saints owner Benson: ‘Next season starts now’

Published 9:19 am Tuesday, January 22, 2019

As online petitions swirl, evil thoughts are cast toward those involved and obscure rule book policies are dreamed upon by New Orleans Saints fans after Sunday’s blown call that may have cost the team a trip to the NFL Super Bowl, the team’s owner Gayle Benson, is taking the high road.

Benson released a statement Monday in which she shows the world what kind of a woman she is, what Saints fans — including hundreds of thousands of Mississippians — are truly made of and why the Saints franchise will remain strong in the face of any challenge: The Saints isn’t just a sports team, it’s a family, the team’s great matriarch wrote.

And while acknowledging that she had complained to the NFL about the clearly blown pass interference call in the fourth quarter that very well would have changed the game’s outcome, Benson stopped short of calling for a replay of the game and instead looked to the future and to rally together the Saints family with words of encouragement.

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Only a fellow member of that Saints family can truly appreciate her words of frustration on the call that wasn’t made, but also her deep love for the fans who give the New Orleans Saints family character.

She wrote:

Yesterday’s result is still difficult to accept for all of us. I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday’s game. Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field.

As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday. I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations – fairness and integrity.

Our entire team is humbled and grateful for the support shown by our fans over the course of the season. It has become common for teams to proclaim that they have the “best fans in the NFL”. I do not believe there is any debate, however, that we truly have the most inspiring, committed and passionate fans in all of professional sports. This is true whether you are from New Orleans or part of our family of fans from the entire state, region and country.

The truth is we are more than team and fans- we are a family. As a family we celebrate together, support each other and sometimes suffer together. This past season has been especially meaningful to me as we honored my husband. I will never be able to fully express my appreciation for the way all of you have supported me and our team in honoring Tom Benson’s legacy. I know he is proud of this team and our fans.

While the way this season ended has left us all frustrated and disappointed, I am comforted knowing we will respond the way our community always responds – with resilience, fierce determination and love for each other and the Saints.

I have had many blessings in my life, perhaps the greatest is being born in New Orleans and having the opportunity to be a part of the Saints family with you. Next season starts now and I can’t wait to share it with you again. – Gayle Benson

Well said, Mrs. Benson, well said.