Saints owner gets a statue for keeping team in town after extorting money not to leave

And then there’s this, from Deadspin:

The Saints and Pelicans surprised owner Tom Benson with a 13.5-foot bronze statue outside of the Superdome, a venerable and iconic arena that nine years ago Benson tried to get declared unusable after Hurricane Katrina in an attempt to break his lease and relocate the Saints to San Antonio.

Benson, don’t forget, had earlier pioneered using move threats to get a lease that paid him tens of millions of dollars a year in state money just to play in his own home stadium. At the statue unveiling, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal praised Benson for his “commitment” and “generosity.”


8 comments on “Saints owner gets a statue for keeping team in town after extorting money not to leave

  1. “But Benson even stunned Loomis when the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans organizations surprised their 87-year-old owner Tuesday with a 13-and-a-half foot bronze statue of him overlooking Champions Square outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.”
    Does this mean that the Saints and Pelican organizations paid for the statue? Does that further mean that Benson paid for the statue?

  2. I’m so glad that someone besides myself sees what a hypocrite Benson is. This guy did everything in his power to move to San Antonio after AND before Katrina.

    The few hoops fans in the city praise him for saving the NBA franchise from fleeing even though he was part of the reason that the NBA was so unsuccessful when the team relocated from Charlotte. He owned radio stations where the hosts were specifically told not to talk about the then Hornets and he played a role in keeping the north shore from being able to watch games due to the cable dispute when the team first arrived.

    David Stern, Bobby Jindal and the Mayor are all more deserving of praise in helping save the NBA in New Orleans. The only reason Benson bought the team was because of owning property downtown, property that was given to him for free in order to keep him from taking the Saints out of town. And even then, he had to be begged by Stern to buy the team for $338 million. This was AFTER the lockout when team valuations had already gone way up yet he still wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted to buy the team.

    I find it funny that David Stern has a reputation for only taking deals that are in the league’s financial best interest yet accepted $338 million for the Hornets, a team jointly owned by the other 29 owners, as opposed to taking $500 to $600 million from Hansen, who was already in the picture at this point.

  3. As I recall, Benson demanded improvements to the stadium and, upon being told that the city couldn’t or wouldn’t provide them, he told them “fine, then just pay me what the improvements could earn me which is $X”. And curiously, they said “yup”.

    I’m not trying to defend Benson here, but I do recall thinking at the time that the city had actually saved itself considerable money by doing that deal (assuming it was going to do one or the other, not just kick his sorry butt to the curb). Does this make them smart for taking the lesser of two evils (much the lesser, if we assume that they would not only have had to build him the improvements but guarantee that he could sell them all, a la Oakland, Cincinnati etc), or dumb for not just telling him no?

    Not sure. But a statue? Really? Why not a statue of Ray Nagin then, he took less money from the process than Benson has…

  4. TB: That’s a good point re: Stern. The only thing I can come up with is that he suggested they would get more money from Hansen (or Ballmer or whomever) for an expansion team for Seattle and could get the $338m from Benson as well. After all, it’s not like anyone was lining up to buy an expansion team for New Orleans… so you could say that moving that team to Seattle would have cost the league more.

    Thus far, that seems like a bad bet given what has happened elsewhere… but unlike elected officials, sports cartel executives operate over the long term… it may yet prove financially rewarding for the NBA.

  5. “The few hoops fans in the city praise him for saving the NBA franchise from fleeing even though he was part of the reason that the NBA was so unsuccessful when the team relocated from Charlotte. He owned radio stations where the hosts were specifically told not to talk about the then Hornets and he played a role in keeping the north shore from being able to watch games due to the cable dispute when the team first arrived.”

    I do not doubt the man did not help the situation, however New Orleans market was way overextended once the Hornets/Pelicans moved in, a general rule of thumb is the metro should have at least one million people for most of the pro major leagues (baseball should be a little higher since there is like double the games in a season). New Orleans is around 1.2 million so should be able to support one, unless they have a sports mad culture two was going to be problematic even before economic punch taken by Katrina.

    Most people think that owners rivals are the other team in their league, however generally get along well and will share business tips since they are pretty much local monopolies, the owners real competitors are the other sports teams in their city/metro they have to fight for the entertainment dollars of fans, local sponsorship money and corporation’s buying suites.

  6. … I forgot to add there is also fights verses their city’s other sports teams on [when/how much] government subsidies they might be able to receive (how could I forget to mention that on this site)

  7. John Bladen

    That’s assuming the NBA wants to expand. Everything that we’ve heard publically is that they don’t. Therefore if they want to get back to Seattle, it has to be via relocation.

    I think we’ll see how this plays out when the Milwaukee thing gets settled. If they get a new arena and the league still doesn’t expand despite many in the media pressuring them to get back to Seattle, then we’ll see the heat turned up on Silver.

    I will say this though. The owners do NOT want to expand unless they absolutely have their socks knocked off and Seattle is one of the candidates. Relocating out of New Orleans would’ve been much easier and made more financial sense. You have to remember that it’s not as simple as just adding expansion fees. If it were, we would see more expansion in pro sports. The revenue pie gets divided up by however many teams you expand by and in the long run, that hurts more than the short term boost you get from expansion fees. Therefore, the league would’ve been financially better off with Seattle instead of New Orleans.

  8. BF: It depends on the sport. Yes, the revenue pie (national tv etc) does get divided into more pieces if you expand, obviously. However, if you get $600m in expansion revenues AND grow the sport (when the present tv contracts are up the additional teams will lead to increased TV revenues… if that weren’t the case, the NFL would still be a 12-14 team league), then the gains involved easily outweigh the (temporary) loss of 1/30th of a share of the national revenues.

    While it is correct to point out that the NBA has publicly claimed they have no intention of expanding, the truth of the matter is that any league will expand if it is offered more money than it has the courage to refuse. If Mr. Hansen had offered $600-700m as an expansion fee, the Sonics II would be preparing for their inaugural season right now. I don’t blame him for trying to acquire a franchise cheaper than that, obviously. But he could have offered Stern $450m and just kept adding money until DS couldn’t bring himself to say no.

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