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The Saints just keep reminding NFL fans that they’re the league’s most unlikable franchise

How is this not the most hated franchise in the NFL?

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New Orleans Saints v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints suck. This is a truth and a saying uttered by Falcons fans since their inception in 1967, which started a natural southeastern rivalry which has developed enormous levels of venom through the years.

However, when taking a hard look at the status of that team from New Orleans, even beyond Falcons fandom, it’s easy to see that they really are repulsive.

When looking at an NFL franchise, its primary representation comes from the most recognizable figures — the owner, the main executives, the head coach, the star quarterback, and any other superstar player in the spotlight. You can probably add the fanbase as a whole to this list of representatives (some fanbases give their teams a bad name).

I don’t think any franchise exudes more toxicity from this select group of individuals than the New Orleans Saints. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

Gayle Benson - Owner

I’m going to start from the very top. Gayle Benson gained ownership of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans following the death of her husband and principle owner Tom Benson in 2018. This happened following an ugly legal battle between her and Benson’s children for control of his estate, where Benson’s mental competency was the primary source of intrigue.

Before we get to some of what she’s done in an ownership role, I’d like to bring to attention what Gayle Benson did in a life before football. It was still a life of continued legal battles as the Independent notes that she was sued 18 times over a 13-year time period as the owner of an interior design company, mostly over breach of contract and failing to pay bills in a timely fashion. Many of these suits ended in her paying out-of-court settlements.

A USA Today article also notes that she was arrested and charged with theft of furniture from a client, although the district attorney decided not to prosecute, and she launched her own lawsuit following this episode.

She also had both state and federal tax liens against her business for failure to pay taxes (the debts have since been paid off) and was further involved in court proceedings against former employees under the allegation of unpaid wages.

Benson was one of the NBA owners who opted not to initially pay in-arena employees when COVID-19 forced a postponement of the NBA season. It took some negative PR following reports that it was 19-year-old rookie Zion Williamson who pledged to pay 30 days worth of salaries for Smoothie King Center employees impacted by COVID, and not Benson (who has a net worth of $3.2 billion), to force her into action in the form of creating a $1 million relief fund for impacted employees.

Immediately before this, she drew criticism for her stance that the situation was “a bit more complicated” and that the team wouldn’t guarantee arena-worker salaries because the employees who fall into that category aren’t team employees (again, Benson’s net worth exceeds $3 billion).

Now let’s get to arguably the biggest doozy of them all — the Catholic Church scandal Benson and Saints found themselves in the middle of earlier this year.

The Associated Press came out with this bombshell report in January.

The New Orleans Saints are going to court to keep the public from seeing hundreds of emails that allegedly show team executives doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese to help it contain the fallout from a burgeoning sexual abuse crisis.

According to the AP report, Benson and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond are apparently close friends, to the point where Aymond was at Benson’s side during the funeral of husband Tom Benson in 2018.

Attorneys for the men suing the church say “multiple” Saints personnel, including Senior Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel, used their team email to advise church officials on “messaging” and how to soften the impact of the archdiocese’s release of the list of credibly accused clergy.

The fight over the emails is part of a flurry of claims filed against the archdiocese over its employment of George F. Brignac, a longtime schoolteacher and deacon who was removed from the ministry in 1988 after a 7-year-old boy accused him of fondling him at a Christmas party. That accusation followed claims that Briganc abused several other boys, including one case that led to his acquittal in 1978 on three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

We’ll wait and see exactly how this lawsuit plays out, but it’s certainly an ugly look for Benson and the New Orleans Saints to even be associated with this story.

Sean Payton - Head Coach

Payton is one of the most arrogant and unlikeable guys in the NFL, even if he’s been fun on Twitter of late.

Seen as one of the heroes in the story of New Orleans’ redemption, whose climax was a 2009 Super Bowl victory, Payton (along with LBs coach Joe Vitt) was accused by the team’s former director of security of stealing a large quantity of Vicodin pills from the team’s drug locker shortly after the triumph.

Payton was then suspended for the entire 2012 season after it was discovered that his defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams (who is somehow still employed in the National Football League), was running an illegal bounty program intent on injuring opposing teams’ star players en route to winning one of the biggest asterisked Super Bowl rings in NFL history in 2009.

An initial alert by an unknown player was brought to the NFL’s attention in the 2010 offseason, and then the evidence became overwhelming ahead of the 2011 playoffs.

Damning audio of Williams’ speech to his defense prior to the 2011 Divisional Round game against the San Francisco 49ers was preserved and released to the public. Below is a snippet of that speech:

On (RB Frank) Gore: “We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.”

On running back Kendall Hunter: “Little 32, we’re going to knock the f--- out of him.”

On (QB Alex) Smith: “Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”

On Kyle Williams: “We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion. We need to f------ put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f------ decide.”

On (WR Michael) Crabtree: “We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-ass prima donna, or he wants to be a tough guy. We need to find out. He becomes human when we f------ take out that outside ACL.”

On (TE Vernon) Davis: “We need to decide how many times we can bull rush and and we can f------ put Vernon Davis’ ankles over the pile.”

You can tell me that the head coach and overseer of the entire locker room Sean Payton had no idea that this was going on under his nose for years, but you shouldn’t be surprised when I say that I don’t believe that for a second.

Moving on to recent years, Payton has routinely seen his team choke in the playoffs and has proven unable to win much of anything in the postseason without Williams and his very interesting rhetoric. He did manage to push hard for a pass interference review rule that was a complete disaster after his team was famously on the wrong end of a call against the Rams, a rule change so bad it was scrapped after a single year.

That hasn’t stopped him doing things such as showing the choke sign to Devonta Freeman in a Thursday Night Football game against the Falcons in 2017, presumably reminding the RB of his team’s Super Bowl loss a few months prior, or mocking Vikings fans with a “Skol” clap in the 2017 Divisional Round playoff game when it looked like the Saints had it won.

Karma was swift and just in both cases, as the Saints found a way to choke each of those games — the first in the form of a Drew Brees interception in the end zone at the hands of Deion Jones, and the second in the form of the Minneapolis Miracle.

Drew Brees - Quarterback

Now we move on to the tone deaf star quarterback of the Saints who has recently been dominating the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Brees was looked at as the hero of New Orleans’ completed redemption with the triumph in 2009. He had successfully maintained a Captain America-like image in the public setting as a role model for a number of years, but there was always a bit of darkness when diving deeper into the persona of Brees.

Let’s start with his endorsement and partnership with AdvoCare, a multi-level marketing company that preys on the poor, which Brees has vehemently defended over and over again in the past. In 2019, the company was ordered to pay $150 million in settlement of pyramid scheme charges.

ESPN’s Mina Kimes went in depth about AdvoCare’s sleazy practices in a longform article she wrote all the way back in 2016.

This pyramid scheme Brees endorsed and supported for years is maybe the most egregious in a long line of “unsavory” business practices he has participated in over the years. This Canal Street Chronicles article from 2018 touches on a few of them.

Now that we mentioned that, let’s look at the latest reason why Brees has been in the news:

Back in 2016, Brees expressed “wholehearted” disagreement with Colin Kaepernick for his peaceful protests of the police brutality faced by African Americans in this country on a frequent basis, citing the San Fran QB’s “disrespect of the flag” as the reason for his criticisms. Four years later, Brees doubled down on those comments in a breathtaking tone-deaf display.

Brees once again looked past the real reason for the protests happening all over the country and once again tried to make things about the flag when it was never about the flag in the first place (as Packers QB Aaron Rodgers wisely stated in response to these comments made by the Saints’ signal caller).

Among other things, Brees talked about his grandfathers fighting for the country in World War 2. None of my thoughts on this statement can be put into words more eloquently than the message Shannon Sharpe delivered the morning following Brees’ comments on FS1’s “Undisputed.”

Sharpe calls for Brees’ outright retirement due to the fact that the Saints’ locker room could get divided over this. This isn’t an article endorsing or condemning that stance. I really couldn’t care less about the state of the Saints’ locker room.

This comes after the backlash Brees received from many professional athletes (including a number of teammates) across Twitter in what was an explosion of criticism. We put a lot of those tweets into an article you can check out if you’d like.

Brees did issue an apology a day after his comments, but it didn’t come until the pressure of the social media machine pressed down on his shoulders (Atlanta’s Deion Jones was one of the many who felt that the apology itself “rang hallow”). He did better in subsequent days, Apology or no, Brees will likely never be looked at the same way in NFL circles again.

Michael Thomas - Wide Receiver

To his credit, Michael Thomas never found himself in any court proceedings, lawsuits, pyramid schemes, and has never given the NFL reason to suspend him. Compared to the rest of the guys I just talked about, Thomas is a Saint (pun intended). His strong words and advocacy in the current moment helped push the NFL to make a stronger statement, and for all the hate we direct his way, he seems to be a good person off the field.

The irritation many have with Thomas is that he’s the very personification of the diva wide receiver. With Antonio Brown currently exiled from the league, Thomas has taken that mantle of the alpha prima donna WR and ran with it (he didn’t run too far though; he isn’t very effective down the field).

Nothing tells this story more than Thomas’ exchange with Miami wide receiver DeVante Parker earlier this offseason:

For Thomas to go directly after Parker, you’d think the Miami WR said something egregious and insulting about the former Ohio State man. Yeah, not really.

Thomas was so bothered by Parker typing one letter under an Instagram post, stating that it would be harder to make a catch while guarded by New England’s Stephon Gilmore (thought by many to be the best cornerback in the game today) than to break up a pass while guarding Thomas. He never drew any attention at all to Thomas himself on his post.

That’s just the Twitter persona of a wide receiver who threatened to “pop” a reporter in a since deleted tweet earlier this offseason.

The Fanbase

Saints fans will probably whine and cry about this article when they come across it. That’s what they’re good at; it’s what they did throughout the entire 2019 offseason.

After a questionable no-call resulted in the 2018 NFC Championship Game going into an overtime period where New Orleans got the ball first and saw Drew Brees choked the game away with an interception, Saints fans lost their minds and drove everyone else crazy with their constant complaining.

Among other things, they launched a lawsuit against the NFL and Roger Goodell, citing “mental anguish & emotional trauma, loss of faith in the NFL, and loss of enjoyment of life (LMAOOOO).”

They signed petitions to try and have the game re-played.

Louisiana Congressional Representative Bill Cassidy even wasted time on the Senate Floor talking about the no-call in the middle of a government shutdown where some Federal Government workers were resorting to food banks because they couldn’t afford to eat after another missed paycheck.

You can find an article talking about every ridiculously hilarious moment from that offseason here.

They tried to push a narrative that Super Bowl 53 would have an asterisk beside it that nobody outside of New Orleans cared to listen to. In fairness, Saints fans should know first hand about Super Bowl asterisks, that is if they didn’t vehemently defend bountygate like they do to this day.

They got so annoying to the point where the NFL even passed the aforementioned rule change allowing head coaches to challenge pass interference, just to shut them up. The rule change was a disaster and was repealed after one year, earlier this offseason.

Falcons fans who clash with them at all times of the year have always known that Saints fans stink. There are clever Saints fans and smart Saints fans and even funny Saints fans, but we know how often their only retort is “28-3.” This incident just showcased that to every other fanbase as well.

I can honestly see no more fitting way to conclude this article than to go back through the karmic playoff heartbreak that franchise has gone through since winning that dirty Super Bowl ring over a decade ago.