It’s about us in this locker room. We could care less if [the fans] showed up or not ... When I first got here, man, there were probably like 100 people out there in those seats.
-- Joe Johnson
Atlanta has always supported our team. They’ve been great. We’ve tried to do the right things for the franchise to earn the fans’ respect. I tell our players repeatedly that without our fans and sponsors, we’d have 22 young men playing sandlot football. That’s it. We are about our fans. We are about our sponsors. We are about the people who come to the games. We are about people that watch our games on TV and make sure that our ratings are high.
-- Arthur Blank
We could point out that one has a lasting financial investment in whether fans care or not, and the other just has one last guaranteed paycheck. One has been a part of the city for over 30 years, and the other's only stuck here for 48 more minutes. One has a lifetime of PR experience, and the other sometimes goes weeks without speaking. One is looking forward to one of the most promising seasons in franchise history, and the other has spent the past week crapping the countertop on national TV. Hope and frustration can certainly sway what comes out of a person's mouth, and we all say things we regret.
But still. I haven't heard any Hawks say anything contrary to Joe's statement, not even classy guys like Al Horford or Jamal Crawford. And it'll be a cold day in Valdosta before we see any Falcons do this again. Joe Johnson and Arthur Blank are both leaders (sadly, in the Hawks' case, Johnson is the closest thing to a public franchise figurehead), and both of their messages have trickled down throughout their organizations.
Google public minicamp and see how many teams allowed the same kind of access the Falcons did this past weekend. Face facts, football fans: your team actually gives a hoot about you.