The New Orleans Saints say they will remove an image that features former safety Darren Sharper from outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as part of a restoration of Champions Square next to the stadium, reports The New Orleans Advocate.
Sharper is now in prison after pleading guilty or no contest to raping and drugging women across four states. He will be incarcerated for at least nine more years for the crimes.
The team will remove an image of Sharper with his finger raised as he is running behind cornerback Tracy Porter after Porter intercepted Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and returned it 74 yards for the game-clinching touchdown return in Super Bowl XLIV, giving the franchise its first championship.
“It’s common sense," Saints executive Ben Hales said. "We don’t even want the perception that that’s an individual we’re celebrating."
William & Mary has already removed Sharper from the school's Hall of Fame.
Sharper played 14 seasons in the NFL with the Packers, Vikings and Saints. He was a five-time Pro Bowl defender and two-time first-team All-Pro selection. He was employed as an analyst for NFL Network before he was fired when the rape allegations surfaced.
Hales said other images from Champions Square will also be removed and that the decision to makeover Champions Square has nothing to do with Sharper or his criminal charges.
“The shame of it is, that’s an iconic moment from the Super Bowl,” Hales said. “People can probably do the TV and radio call in their head. There just happens to be somebody in the background who is not someone our organization or the NFL Network is likely to be celebrating.
“We’ve heard a couple of people who have debated it, and people almost feel bad for Tracy Porter. That moment everybody recognizes can’t be celebrated because of somebody in the background.”
- Scooby Axson