The New Orleans Saints have made an addition to their practice facility on Saturday and it’s not a new player but a familiar face.
In a press release the team revealed that they have added a banner featuring a picture of owner Tom Benson hoisting the Lombardi Trophy following their victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
According to their site, the idea was sparked by head coach Sean Payton as a way to send what he called “a message”.
Of Benson, Payton said this about the idea of the banner:
"“We have photos up on the walls of our indoor facility of our Super Bowl game, Steve Gleason’s blocked punt – great team images that have captured what we have built here and what we continue to build. The guy that has meant the most to our organization and our success is Mr. Benson. No one deserves that more. It is a simple but important gesture. We could not have had the success that we have enjoyed without Mr. Benson. He has one goal every year: to win a championship for our fans. I think putting that image of him up there reminds us daily of what we are working for.”"
While this message may be for the players to see what can be achieved with hard work and perseverance, it also sends a message of solidarity and support for Benson.
Benson has faced adversity since January when he named his wife Gayle as his successor when he passes as the person who will be in control of not only the Saints franchise but the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team whom Benson also owns.
This caused backlash from his daughter Renee Benson and also granddaughter Rita Benson Leblanc who everyone thought was in training to eventually take over the franchises when her grandfather passed.
Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and daughter vice chairman of the board Rita Benson LeBlanc on the sidelines before their game against the Dallas Cowboys at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Both Renee and Rita have said Benson is mentally unstable and being manipulated by Gayle to edge them out of that portion of the family business.
A competency hearing is scheduled to start this week which a judge has recently ordered closed to the public.
While members of the Saints coaching staff and players have been diplomatic when asked about their feelings on the matter, this banner speaks volume when paired with Payton’s words.
Quarterback Drew Brees also spoke about the banner saying that Benson “played an important role” in him signing with the Saints in 2006 and he has a treasured relationship with the owner.
Brees, like Payton, showed his support of Benson by saying:
"“Mr. Benson plays an important role as an active and engaged owner of this football team. He embodies everything that you could hope and want from an owner. I know how much he cares for the players and coaches, as well as the city of New Orleans, and how important it is to him to be a champion on the field and in the community. I see it constantly on a daily basis in everything he does.“"
The highlighted words show the feelings Brees has not only for Benson but how he likely feels when it comes to questioning if Benson is fit to still run the team.
After Benson announced his decision to have Gayle as his successor, he still showed up bright and early to the team’s facilities often joking with the media and lamenting on how great it was to go work everyday.
Jul 26, 2013; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson during the first day of training camp at the team facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately the impending court battles that Benson will face is not something that he, his wife, or anyone in either of his franchises are looking forward to.
It will not be a quick, painless proceeding as the once seemingly tight bond between Benson and his family members will be fractured with likely no repair to the current or future wounds inflicted.
But the one thing that Benson can have comfort in is that his Saints team is not only showing a solidarity and support to right the ship from a dismal 2014 season, but to show the same to the ever smiling captain of that ship.
The new banner that now hangs in the practice facility is their salute to that notion…