Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry is now on board with what looks like a growing political movement to eliminate subsidies to the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans from the state budget.
That movement began Monday, when state representative Kenny Havard (R-St. Francisville) first proposed cutting government tax breaks and other subsidies to the Saints, and shortly thereafter Havard’s colleague Valarie Hodges (R-Denham Springs) joined in. By Tuesday evening Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, who is in London this week but says he won’t attend the Saints-Dolphins game there after 10 members of the team refused to stand for the national anthem at Sunday’s game, had also said the idea of cutting those subsidies was at least “worth discussing.”
Now, Landry is in.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wants the state to review the public funding, tax incentives and other benefits it gives to the New Orleans Saints following player protests during the national anthem Sunday (Sept. 24).
“Why should the taxpayers subsidize with hundreds of millions of dollars a two billion dollar organization that allows the blatant disregard for our flag and our anthem?” said Landry, a Republican and the state’s top lawyer, in a written statement Tuesday.
Two state lawmakers have already requested the state review public support for the Saints because they are upset about player protests before their game at Carolina. Landry said he supports their efforts, though it’s not clear state support could be pulled from the Saints even if it was the will of the Legislature.
Those subsidies aren’t getting cut, because the state has a contract with Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and to break that contract will end up costing the state more – not to mention the fact Benson would almost assuredly try to move his teams if the contract was broken.
What’s more likely is any further demands Benson might make would fall on deaf ears, and when the contract is up for renewal he’ll have much less leverage to negotiate any additional considerations – if he can even maintain the status quo.
And in this respect Benson is little different than any of the NFL’s other owners, who woke up Monday morning to a new reality that the league has greatly alienated its fans by the antics of a minority of its players refusing to stand for the national anthem. The NFL has a colossal PR problem which isn’t going away, and Benson finds himself as one of the worst offenders given the 10 players sitting for the anthem and some of the rather caustic statements made by his organization and its coach in response to President Trump’s remarks suggesting the league rid itself of anthem protesters.
And given that Benson has what might be one of the most generous arrangements of any sports team in America with the state that team is in – he has a rent-free lease on stadia built entirely with public dollars – which is reportedly worth some $165 million, there is a sizable imbalance between the subsidy given him by the state of Louisiana and the amount of goodwill he currently enjoys from the people of the state, as represented by the growing calls from politicians to renegotiate his deal.
This could mean the Saints and Pelicans are destined for new homes at the end of their current contracts. Or it could mean Benson is soon to retool his organization so as to return to the good graces of the public paying him those millions. A game or two without anyone kneeling or sitting for the national anthem might do wonders in that regard.
But heaven help the situation if the Pelicans continue the affront to patriotism when their season begins in a few weeks, which is what they’re now threatening.