Thursday, November 03, 2005

Benson: 'I will not return to Baton Rouge'

From - New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson says he will not return to Baton Rouge for his hurricane-displaced team's games for the rest of this season and next year, according to an e-mail obtained by a newspaper and a television station.

The e-mail was sent to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue following the Saints' loss on Sunday in Baton Rouge, taunts from fans and an altercation with a TV camera crew.

In the e-mail, Benson called security at Tiger Stadium "inadequate to non-existent" and claimed that he and his family members "could have all been severely injured or killed."

"I will not return to Baton Rouge for any reason, including any games scheduled for the end of this season or a contemplated next season," Benson said in the e-mail. "No person, much less the owner of NFL team, should have either he, his family or his friends subjected to this form of danger, intimidation and abuse. I was advised not to go but wanted to support the league."

Copies of the e-mail were obtained by The Times-Picayune and WWL-TV in New Orleans.

In a statement sent to The Times-Picayune, the Saints said the e-mail was sent out of frustration and Benson has not decided whether he will attend this weekend's game against the Chicago Bears in Baton Rouge.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said that Benson was upset by his treatment from fans after the Saints' 21-6 loss to Miami on Sunday.

Benson, who attended the game with his wife, Gayle, granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc and grandson Ryan LeBlanc, was involved in an altercation with a WWL-TV cameraman and a fan as the owner and his family left the stadium near the end of the game.

"Mr. Benson did write a message Sunday night to the commissioner expressing his concern about the incident that occurred following the game," Bensel said. "It was an emotional and distressing situation and very unfortunate for him and his family. His comments to the commissioner relayed his frustration and at this time he has not yet made a decision on his plans for this weekend's game."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday he is not aware of any security concerns of the Saints in Baton Rouge and said league officials "are not going to discuss communication between owners and our office."

Benson lunged at a WWL-TV camera, knocking it down and causing a microphone to fall off, before engaging in a verbal confrontation with a nearby fan. The NFL has said it plans no action against Benson.

WWL-TV said the cameraman was about seven to 10 feet from Benson and was not in the way of Benson and his party. The station said the Saints did not respond to its request for comment.