Stop Peacocking, Start Crawfishing

Louisiana’s elected officials can’t be serious about pulling support for pro sports

Louisiana has some things that many of its Southern neighbors don’t. Not Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia. Yet this week, a few of the state’s elected officials seem OK with potentially losing those assets, and setting Louisiana back even further.

New Orleans is home to two professional sports franchises worth an estimated $2.75 billion, yet Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, House Reps. Kenny Havard, Jackson and Valarie Hodges, Denham Springs, all Republicans, are calling for the state government to review and, possibly, pull state funding, tax breaks and other support to the New Orleans Saints after 10 Saints players joined more than 200 players in not standing for the national anthem before games last Sunday and Monday to draw attention to racism and police brutality in the United States. While some players have followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand at games in 2016, last weekend’s protest included many more players – including Saints for the first time – who reacted to President Donald Trump’s comments at an Alabama campaign rally last Friday night, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

Many expect professional basketball players to protest in some form when the NBA season starts up next month.

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Kaepernick and the players who have knelt have continually said the protests are not reflective of how they feel about the military or meant to be disrespectful to veterans. Many say protesting during the anthem playing is disgraceful. However, the players chose that time for maximum effect, as they’ll have a vast percentage of the nation’s population tuned in to the game.

Too many are being willfully ignorant and pigheaded in this discussion. I don’t know what’s in their hearts or heads, but Trump and those who think like him on this issue need to take a hard look in the mirror and the history books to see who they are and who we are as a nation.

Admitting there is a problem is the first step in confronting it.

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America we have a problem.

We are haunted by the fact that race-based slavery is part of our history and relations between races has affected us since the 1600s. It’s our country’s original sin. A nation founded on the principle that “all men were created equal” didn’t actually include all, just those who were landowning, white, male citizens.

It took nearly 90 years, a Civil War that killed an estimated 620,000 men, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to give blacks freedom, citizenship, and – for the men – the right to vote (Ladies of all colors had to wait until 1919 for the 19th Amendment to get the right to cast a ballot). Reconstruction, the attempted transformation of the South following the war from 1863 to 1877, was ultimately as failure. Congress impeached President Andrew Johnson for his moderate position to bring the South back into the union as quickly as possible and opposition to Congressional Reconstruction. Ulysses S. Grant was elected president in 1868 and able to enforce many of the laws passed by Congress. However, accusations of corruption in the Grant Administration and an economic scare in 1873 led Democrats to win the House of Representatives in 1874. The highly contested election of 1876 led to the purported Compromise of 1877, a deal that gave the presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden with the agreement that Hayes would remove federal troops from the South. Republican state legislatures set up after the war fell when the troops left, replaced in many cases by former Confederates who were given the right to vote and hold office. Efforts to disenfranchise, discriminate, and harass blacks (Jim Crow laws, segregation, poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, lynchings, brutality, etc.) were enacted and enforced until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Still, racial strife has continued to linger.

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According to the United States Department of Justice, nearly 50,100 people are incarcerated in Louisiana today, as many as 66 percent of them are black according to U.S. Census estimates, although blacks make up about 32 percent of the state’s population. With 1,420 people in prison for every 100,000 adult residents, the state has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the United States. Additionally, the number of prisoners has grown 30 times faster than the state’s population since the late 1970s.

One would think social reform would be among the state’s highest priorities, but in a phone interview from Europe, where he is supposed to be representing the state at the Saints game in London on Sunday, the official in charge of the state tourism office, which is responsible for attracting events like the Super Bowl, which earlier this year brought in $347 million to greater Houston’s economy, and the NBA All-Star Game, which brought $44.9 million to New Orleans, said he is now boycotting NFL games. Nungesser told The Times-Picayune, “I will not go to the game because I am disappointed in the NFL…. They are using this great opportunity they have to disgrace America. They say they are protesting police brutality. There are only a handful of police that have been convicted of doing something wrong.”

That last sentence is so absolutely, incredibly tone deaf it wakes the ghosts of Emmett Till; Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; the Scottsboro Boys; and the girls killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. It’s exactly why people are upset and pointing out discrepancies in our culture.

The Saints have not responded to the politicians’ statements, but they are surely aware of them. They must be asking if certain state leaders want to pull support from the team because 10 guys chose to speak out, even going so far as to break a contract that is supposed to be in place through 2025, what does that say about their beliefs on the economic impacts those teams and their leagues’ special events provide?

Forbes says the Saints are worth $2 billion and saw a 14 percent increase in value during the last year. The Pelicans, meanwhile, saw a 15 percent increase in value to an estimated value of $750 million. But NBA teams are hot right now. In September, the Houston Rockets sold for $2.2 billion, even though Forbes valued the team at $1.65 billion.

There is no doubt Seattle wants an NBA team, and the Pacific Northwest has the population and corporate megabucks to be a great host city. We already know San Antonio wants the Saints, but St. Louis lost their team last year and has indicated it is willing to build a new stadium. Are we sure either team will remain in Louisiana permanently? When it’s time for the Saints and Pelicans to renew their leases, would it not be wise of them to check on potential offers from other cities and states who will support the best interests of all parties involved? Is it worth it to lose the franchises, the money and attention that they bring into the region and the taxes player, coach and administrative salary generate for local and state governments?

Patriotism is unquantifiable and immeasurable. The same can’t be said of economics.

The Saints, the Pelicans, the players, and their beliefs are not the enemy.    

It’s time for these politicians to stop grandstanding, back away from this divisive issue as quick as a crawfish, and take up something beneficial that will move the state in a positive direction. If Louisiana is to succeed, we all need to be moving together. Hurting the state’s economic future, as well as that of one of its private citizens, Tom Benson, who owns both franchises, is not a good look and will cause a second thought as to whether it is the best environment for growth, for business, and for families.


Pay Dirt

Some state officials are boycotting the New Orleans Saints and want to review and, possibly, pull state funding, tax breaks and other support after 10 players on the 53-man team protested racism and police violence by not standing during the national anthem last week. Pulling state support could cause the teams, both owned by Tom Benson, a private citizen, to look to other host cities for incentives when their leases expire. Forbes values the teams at a combined $2.75 billion.


Team                                   Current Value           1-Yr Value Change             Revenue          Operating Income

New Orleans Saints                   $2 B                               14%                           $395 M                      $97 M

New Orleans Pelicans             $750 M                             15%                           $156 M                     $16.7 M


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