Effect of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans Saints

Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005 and caused extensive damage to the Louisiana Superdome. The National Football League (NFL)'s New Orleans Saints professional American football team were unable to play any home games at the Superdome for the entire 2005 NFL regular season as a result. The stadium was also used to temporarily house victims of the storm.

New Orleans Saints at Tiger Stadium
Tiger Stadium in 2005 during one of the Saints' four home games there. They also played three home games at the Alamodome and one at Giants Stadium.

Before Hurricane Katrina

In April 2005, Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, halted lease negotiations with the state of Louisiana until after the completion of the 2005 NFL season, due to a stadium dispute.[1] Rumors quickly began to spread that San Antonio, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California were being considered as possible destinations for the team. It was reported that Benson had strong interest in relocating to San Antonio due to owning a substantial amount of property in the region and having strong business interests within the city, specifically related to his car dealership empire.[2]

After Hurricane Katrina

After practicing for approximately a week in San Jose, California, where they had evacuated in conjunction with a pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders, the team set up temporary headquarters and arranged for practice facilities in San Antonio, Texas.

The league then announced that although the Saints' first home game on September 18 against the New York Giants would be played at Giants Stadium at 7:30 p.m. EDT on September 19, other home games would be split between Tiger Stadium (the stadium of the LSU Tigers football) at LSU in Baton Rouge (80 miles/130 km from New Orleans), and the Alamodome in San Antonio (540 miles/869 km from New Orleans); offices and practice would remain in San Antonio throughout the season.

Prospective relocation controversy

AaronBrooks
Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks during a home game at Tiger Stadium against the Chicago Bears in November 2005.

Various media reports in the San Antonio Express-News indicated the owner and government officials in San Antonio were working behind the scenes concerning a possible permanent relocation to San Antonio. San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger had pushed a strong verbal campaign to pursue the Saints. Other officials, including Texas Governor Rick Perry, had indicated that they would also support a relocation to San Antonio, including using funding to upgrade the Alamodome, or possibly build a new stadium. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose team currently has San Antonio as part of its territorial rights, also supported an NFL team moving to San Antonio. However, the NFL and commissioner Paul Tagliabue were both in favor of keeping the franchise in New Orleans or at least delaying a decision on a potential relocation. Other rumors of the period said that the NFL preferred to move the team to Los Angeles, or even to expand to Toronto instead, as both cities are over twice the size of San Antonio.

Many fans in Louisiana were angered and felt that Hardberger and Perry were taking advantage of New Orleans' misfortunes to try to steal the Saints. Benson's actions also drew the anger of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who called Benson's actions shameful and disrespectful to New Orleans fans who have supported the team for nearly four decades of mostly losing seasons. San Antonio officials, on the other hand, countered that Benson may have no choice—at the time, it was thought by some that New Orleans might never fully recover as a viable location for an NFL franchise, and that they were simply giving the franchise an option to relocate and remain economically viable, in this case to a city in which Benson already lives and has business interests. Benson indicated in his open letter to the Gulf Coast that San Antonio officials were only doing what any city seeking a franchise would do—recruit the franchise.

On October 21, 2005, Benson issued a statement saying that he had not made any decision about the future of the Saints.[3] However, the San Antonio Express-News reported that sources close to the Saints' organization said that Benson planned to void his lease agreement with New Orleans by declaring the Louisiana Superdome unusable.[4]

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue met with Benson and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco at the Saints' first home game in Baton Rouge on October 30 against the Miami Dolphins. After the meeting, he stopped just short of making a formal commitment to keep the Saints in New Orleans. Said Tagliabue: "The Saints are Louisiana's team and have been since the late '60s when my predecessor Pete Rozelle welcomed them to the league as New Orleans' team and Louisiana's team. Our focus continues to be on having the Saints in Louisiana." He dispelled rumors that had the Saints relocating to Los Angeles. Tagliabue appointed an eight-owner advisory committee to help decide the team's future.[5] Benson left the game with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. A WWL-TV camera crew recorded him leaving the stadium. Benson angrily pushed the camera away and then got into an argument with a fan. Video of the altercation was obtained by WWL-TV. Three days later, Benson issued a statement that he would no longer go to Baton Rouge for Saints home games because he felt he and his family were in danger from abuse at the game.[6]

The following day, Benson agreed with Louisiana state officials to extend his opt out clause with the Superdome and Louisiana because of the disaster until January 2007.

In the midst of the Katrina relocation controversy, several groups of investors approached Benson with offers to buy the team and keep them in Louisiana, the most notable group being one led by Fox Sports analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who is a Louisiana native. However, Benson expressed that he had no intention of selling the team and planned to eventually hand down ownership to his granddaughter, Saints owner/executive Rita Benson LeBlanc. Benson spoke to press following an NFL owners' meeting on November 15, during which he reiterated that the team is not for sale, but also stated that other NFL owners, along with Tagliabue, were working with him to keep the team in New Orleans.[7]

On December 5, Tagliabue met with Benson and New Orleans officials to tour the city and assess the viability of playing in New Orleans in 2006. On January 11, 2006, at a press conference in New Orleans, Tagliabue announced that the Saints would likely play all eight home games at the Superdome.[8] Superdome officials said January 12 that the Dome would be ready by September 1, 2006. The NFL announced on February 5, 2006, that the Superdome would reopen on September 24 when the Saints were to host the Atlanta Falcons.

Tagliabue said the team's preseason games would likely be played elsewhere in the region. He also stated that the Saints and the NFL were committed to New Orleans for the long haul.

Return to the Superdome

Starting in the fall of 2006, the Saints returned to playing all of their regular home games of the 2006 season in New Orleans at the Superdome. Their first game back in New Orleans, on September 25, 2006, was marked by a dramatic blocked punt early in the first quarter, with Steve Gleason blocking the punt and Curtis Deloatch recovering the ball in the Falcons' end zone for a touchdown. It was the first score in the Saints' first game in New Orleans in nearly 21 months. The Saints won the game and, unexpectedly, went on to have the most successful season in their history up to that time, reaching the NFC Championship Game for the first time in franchise history.[9][10][11]

In April 2009, the franchise reached a deal that would keep the Saints in New Orleans until at least 2025.[12] In the 2009 season, the Saints finished 13–3 and defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. In July 2012, "Rebirth", a statue depicting Gleason blocking the punt, was erected outside the Superdome; a news report commented that the blocked punt "etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans' resilience in the face of disaster".[13][14]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Saints owner halts negotiations with state". ESPN Internet Ventures, LLC. Associated Press. April 29, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  2. ^ "Attorney: Benson considering moving Saints west". USA Today. Associated Press. May 11, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  3. ^ Anderson, Ed (October 22, 2005). "Benson: No Saints decision made". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on October 26, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  4. ^ Orsborn, Tom (October 21, 2005). "Benson to bail on Superdome". San Antonio Express-News. Archived from the original on November 8, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  5. ^ "Tagliabue, state working to keep Saints in Louisiana". ESPN Internet Ventures, LLC. Associated Press. October 31, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  6. ^ "Benson in e-mail: 'I will not return to Baton Rouge'". ESPN Internet Ventures, LLC. Associated Press. November 4, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  7. ^ Witz, Billy (November 16, 2005). "Benson gets support from NFL brothers". Los Angeles Daily News. Archived from the original on November 25, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  8. ^ "Saints likely to play all home games in Superdome in '06". WWL-TV. January 11, 2006. Archived from the original on January 18, 2006. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  9. ^ Jenkins, Lee (September 26, 2006). "An Emotional Recovery". The New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Triplett, Mike (September 26, 2016). "Ten years ago, a blocked punt symbolized the 'Rebirth' of the Saints and New Orleans". ESPN Internet Ventures, LLC. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  11. ^ Silver, Michael (May 25, 2016). "A reflection of Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans, Saints". NFL.com. NFL Enterprises, LLC. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  12. ^ "AP: Saints, lawmakers agree to new Superdome lease". USA Today. Associated Press. April 30, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  13. ^ "Steve Gleason statue unveiled". ESPN Internet Ventures, LLC. Associated Press. July 28, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  14. ^ Rosenthal, Gregg (July 27, 2012). "Steve Gleason reflects on Saints statue at Superdome". NFL.com. NFL Enterprises, LLC. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
2005 New Orleans Saints season

The 2005 New Orleans Saints season was the franchise's 39th season in the National Football League.

The season began with the team trying to improve from their 8–8 record from 2004. The Saints played two preseason games in the Louisiana Superdome before being forced to evacuate New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina.

They were forced to play the rest of the season on the road, splitting their games between their temporary headquarters at San Antonio’s Alamodome, and LSU’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, and even playing their first home game at Giants Stadium.

The season ended with a 3–13 record, their equal-worst record alongside 1996 and 1999 since their 1–15 1980 season, and the firing of Jim Haslett. He was replaced by current head coach Sean Payton the following 2006 season.

Effect of Hurricane Katrina on the Louisiana Superdome

The Louisiana Superdome (which is now known as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) was used as a "shelter of last resort" for those in New Orleans unable to evacuate from Hurricane Katrina when it struck on August 29, 2005.

Effect of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans Hornets

Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29, 2005 and caused extensive damage to the New Orleans Arena. As a result, the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s New Orleans Hornets were unable to play any home games at the Arena for both the entire 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons, and temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to became the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. After playing the majority of home games for both the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, the Hornets returned to New Orleans for the 2007–08 season.

Following the success of the Hornets' tenure in the city, the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City for the 2008–09 season, where they now compete as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

National Football League franchise moves and mergers

Throughout the years, a number of teams in the National Football League (NFL) have either moved or merged.

In the early years, the NFL was not stable and teams moved frequently to survive, or were folded only to be resurrected in a different city with the same players and owners. The Great Depression era saw the movement of most surviving small-town NFL teams to the large cities to ensure survival. Franchise mergers were popular during World War II in response to the scarcity of players. Few of these relocations and mergers were accompanied with widespread controversy.

Franchise moves became far more controversial in the late 20th century when a vastly more popular NFL, free from financial instability, allowed many franchises to abandon long-held strongholds for perceived financially greener pastures. Despite a Pete Rozelle promise to Congress not to relocate franchises in return for a law exempting the league from certain aspects of antitrust laws, making possible the AFL–NFL merger, several franchises have relocated in the years since the merger and the passage of the law (Public Law 89-800) which sanctioned it.

While owners invariably cited financial difficulties as the primary factor in such moves, many fans bitterly disputed these contentions, especially in Baltimore, St. Louis, and Cleveland, each of which eventually received teams some years after their original franchises left. However, Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the United States, did not have an NFL team from 1995 to 2015. The league had started actively promoting a return to Los Angeles no later than 2006, and in January 2016, the NFL gave the St. Louis Rams approval to move back to Los Angeles. A year later, the San Diego Chargers also relocated to the city, while the Oakland Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas in 2019 or 2020.

Within the United States, the San Diego–Tijuana market is currently the largest metropolitan area (and only one with over 3 million residents) without an NFL franchise. The only other city to be seriously considered in the country in recent times was San Antonio, Texas, which the Raiders seriously considered as a relocation candidate in 2014 before choosing Las Vegas instead. Speculation on future relocation has mainly been centered around two larger cities outside the United States: Toronto, Canada (q.v. National Football League in Toronto) and London, England, United Kingdom (q.v. Potential London NFL franchise), the latter of which would be the first attempt by one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada to place a team outside North America.

Additionally, with the increasing suburbanization of the U.S., the building of new stadiums and other team facilities in the suburbs instead of the central city became popular from the 1970s on, though at the turn of the 21st century a reverse shift back to the central city became somewhat evident.

Super Bowl XLIV

Super Bowl XLIV was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champions New Orleans Saints and the American Football Conference (AFC) champions Indianapolis Colts to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2009 season. The Saints defeated the Colts by a score of 31–17, earning their first Super Bowl win. The game was played at Sun Life Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium) in Miami Gardens, Florida, for the fifth time (and in South Florida for the tenth time), on February 7, 2010, the latest calendar date for a Super Bowl yet.

This was the Saints' first Super Bowl appearance and the fourth for the Colts franchise, their second appearance in four seasons. The Saints entered the game with a 13–3 record for the 2009 regular season, compared to the Colts' 14–2 record. In the playoff games, both teams placed first in their respective conferences, marking the first time since Super Bowl XXVIII (16 years previously) that both number-one seeds have reached the Super Bowl. The Colts entered the Super Bowl off victories over the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, while the Saints advanced after defeating the previous year's runners up the Arizona Cardinals and then overcoming the Minnesota Vikings in the Conference Championship. It was also the first time both teams started with a thirteen-game winning streak.

Down 10–6 at halftime of Super Bowl XLIV, in what many consider the turning point of the game, New Orleans recovered a surprise onside kick on the second half kickoff, then took their first lead of the game on Pierre Thomas's 16-yard touchdown reception. The Colts responded with Joseph Addai's 4-yard touchdown run to regain the lead at 17–13. The Saints then scored 18 unanswered points, including Tracy Porter's 74-yard interception return for a touchdown, to clinch the victory. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns, was named the Super Bowl MVP. His 32 completions tied a Super Bowl record set by Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

The live broadcast of the game on CBS was watched by an average U.S. audience of 106.5 million viewers, making it then the most-watched Super Bowl. The National Anthem was sung by Carrie Underwood, and the halftime show featured the British rock band The Who. Super Bowl XLIV was the last Bowl to have a uniquely designed logo as its predecessors had: starting with Super Bowl XLV, the logo was permanently settled to bear the Vince Lombardi Trophy superimposed on a model of the stadium hosting the game and Roman numerals denoting the edition of the game.

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