THE SAINTS VS. THE FANS

For most of their 50 years, the New Orleans Saints have been a losing professional football franchise. It took 20 years for the team to make the playoffs and other another 13 years to secure the first playoff victory. It took 42 years for the team to finally win the Super Bowl.

Through the suffering, the great New Orleans Saints fans have remained loyal to their beloved team. However, that loyalty is being threatened by the actions of selfish players and the inappropriate comments of the Saints ownership and Head Coach Sean Payton.

On Friday night, in a rally in Huntsville, AL, President Trump blasted NFL players for disrespecting the National Anthem. He called on NFL owners to fire any player who refused to stand for the National Anthem. Instead of following his advice, owners backed the actions of over 200 players who disrespected the National Anthem on Sunday.

Among the protesters Sunday were ten Saints players, who sat during the National Anthem. In another gesture possibly aimed at President Trump, Saints Wide Receiver Brandon Coleman raised his fist in the air after a touchdown. Some fans interpreted the “celebration” as a black power salute.

The Saints organization did not discipline any of the players, instead team management criticized Donald Trump. In a prepared statement, the Saints called the President’s criticism of the National Anthem protesters “disappointing and inappropriate.” The team also supported the players and stated that they “should be allowed to share or express their feelings.”

Saints Quarterback Drew Brees spoke in favor of standing for the National Anthem, but criticized the President’s comments. Coach Payton questioned the wisdom of President Trump and said he was “dividing the country.” Last year, Payton made headlines for anti-Second Amendment comments in the aftermath of the murder of former Saints player Will Smith. In fact, the Coach praised “England, where even the cops don’t have guns.”

Sean Payton is the most successful head coach in the history of the New Orleans Saints. He led his team to the playoffs five times, including one NFC championship and one glorious Super Bowl. Clearly, his mastery of his craft is unquestioned and his coaching tactics have been emulated by other NFL coaches. However, after three straight losing seasons, it might be a better idea for the coach to focus on football rather than bashing the President or advocating gun control.

All of these political comments and protests are having some negative ramifications for the Saints. Several legislators are now questioning the funding the team receives from the state budget. Billionaire owner Tom Benson, who is the richest man in Louisiana, has received over $165 million in state benefits, including an upgrade to the Superdome and the annual payment of office rent at his building in downtown New Orleans.

Legislators are looking at more pressing needs in Louisiana such as housing, education and healthcare. If Saints players continue to be disrespectful toward symbols of our country, and receive support from coaches and management, it may be difficult to convince legislators to continue the subsidies.

It is unclear what the players are protesting. Is it police conduct or treatment of minorities in America? Certainly, NFL players are not the victims of discrimination. These protesting players are mostly millionaires who make more per week than the average American family can make in a year.

If this continues, both the NFL and the New Orleans Saints are threatening their solid support base among loyal fans. Already there are signs that the Saints have crossed a line with local fans. For example, a Slidell Mardi Gras Krewe has rescinded an invitation for two players to serve as Grand Marshals in the next parade.

In Chalmette, the management of WOW Café and Winery announced that the restaurant will not air Saints games for their patrons until the players start showing appropriate reverence for the National Anthem.

In addition, some Saints fans are burning jerseys, while others are tearing up their tickets. It is a full-scale fan revolt that is unprecedented in the annals of Saints history. Even during the 1-15 1980 season, fans still attended the game, but with bags over their head.

Unless corrective action is taken, the Saints are on the verge of destroying the tremendous loyalty and support among fans that has been developed over 50 years. This is all being threated due to the ill-advised actions and comments of the entire organization, not just the ten players who sat during the National Anthem.

At the next game, all players should stand for the National Anthem and show proper respect to not only a country that has given them so much but also to fans who have served in the military and made sacrifices that have guaranteed all Americans the right to enjoy our God given freedoms outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

All Saints fans are the “customers” of the team and no group has been more long suffering and loyal. These people deserve better treatment from the organization. The fans need to be respected first and foremost. Unfortunately, the Saints in a bid to show solidarity with a protest movement, have forgotten their fan base. Let’s hope and pray they come to their senses.

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