NFL’s Saints Accused of Giving Catholic Church PR Help in Sex-Abuse Crisis

The Saints are going to court to stop hundreds of emails from going public

Saints Accused of Aiding Catholic Church During Sex-Abuse Crisis
A New Orleans Saints helmet on the field before a game.
Don Juan Moore/Getty
By Evan Bleier / January 24, 2020 1:09 pm

Attorneys for about two dozen men suing the Roman Catholic archdiocese in New Orleans allege there are hundreds of private emails that show team executives for the NFL’s Saints advising the church about how to handle its sexual-abuse crisis.

According to the lawyers, 276 documents they obtained through discovery show that team employees aided the Archdiocese of New Orleans in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes,” the Associated Press reports.

“Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia,” the attorneys wrote in a court filing. “The Saints realize that if the documents at issue are made public, this professional sports organization also will be smearing itself.”

The emails in question advised church officials on “messaging” and how to lessen the impact of allegations of sexual abuse, according to the court filing.

“The information at issue bears a relationship to these crimes because it is a continuation of the Archdiocese’s pattern and practice of concealing its crimes so that the public does not discover its criminal behavior,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote. “And the Saints joined in.”

In court papers arguing that the emails, exchanged in 2018 and 2019, should remain private and not become part of the public record, Saints attorneys called the implication that the team helped cover up the church’s alleged crimes “outrageous.”

Gayle Benson, who inherited the Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team when her husband Tom Benson died in 2018, is close with New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and was accompanied by the religious leader as she walked in her husband’s funeral procession.

Last October, lawyers for a man who claims he was sexually abused by former Catholic deacon George Brignac filed court papers saying they found evidence that the Saints’  longtime public relations chief Greg Bensel was “advising the archdiocese on how to publicly address local claims pertaining to the Catholic Church’s ongoing clergy abuse crisis.” 

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