New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson says he will not sell his 1-6 team. He did not rule out moving it to another city, however.
Benson on Thursday responded to criticism that has included calls for him to sell the team, which has not had a winning season since 1992.
"My commitment is even stronger to do everything possible to make the Saints a winning football team," Benson said in a written statement. "We, in fact, have made every effort to do so this year. Nevertheless, the present situation does not evidence the result we wanted. Notwithstanding, I WILL NOT SELL THIS CLUB, nor abandon our goals."
After back-to-back 6-10 seasons, the Saints traded eight draft picks for running back Ricky Williams this year and coach Mike Ditka proclaimed him the missing element in reaching the Super Bowl. Instead, New Orleans has lost six straight, five in the fourth quarter, and is 4-16 in the last 20 games.
New Orleans has not had a sold-out game this season and the team just completed a series of discussions comparing their lease with those of other NFL teams. Included in the information was details on how such leases can be broken.
At the same time, Howard Peak, mayor of San Antonio, where Benson also has a home, said his city would try to convince Benson to move the team there.
After New Orleans mayor Marc Morial said the city would try to lure the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, Peak called the Saints to say his city would like an NFL team.
"Your good mayor was kind enough to remind me of our current situation, and that is we have a facility without a football team," Peak said. "And, of course, Tom Benson being something of a local himself, I thought I'd give him a call and inquire as to any interest the Saints might have."
In his statement Thursday, Benson, who has refused to speak to reporters, implied a move of the team is not out of the question.
"Some of the recent comments that have been made by various media sources unfortunately remind me of the lack of support and problems that Bud Adams endured in Houston a few years ago, criticism that eventually resulted in his relocation of the club to Tennessee," Benson said. "I pledge to do my part to try to avoid a similar outcome in New Orleans."
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