New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson released an official statement amid the nationwide protests regarding questionable circumstances and legal response concerning the death of George Floyd.
This past week angry Americans have expressed anger and discontent through demonstrations and civil unrest in the United States, and other world nations. Many are requesting a "real change" in the manner of how law enforcement officers treat African-American citizens. Mrs. Benson expressed sadness and concern and shared that her organization, Social Justice Leadership Coalition, will seek to find solutions to the existing social problems still plaguing Americans.
STATEMENT FROM NEW ORLEANS SAINTS AND NEW ORLEANS PELICANS OWNER GAYLE BENSON
Social Justice Leadership Coalition Created
One week ago today, George Floyd was tragically and senselessly murdered. Anger, sadness and protest followed throughout our nation in response to this unjust murder. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of George Floyd.
There are no written words, nor the timing of those words that can properly honor the life of George Floyd. We stand against police brutality in any form. Statements are words; unified action towards a solution is what needs to come from this now.
Both the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans organizations take a tremendous amount of pride in working with our players and community leaders to impact meaningful change.
Within the last few years we have worked closely with Saints LB Demario Davis on social justice reform projects such as supporting the local public defender’s office. We donated professional office space in Benson Tower to support Operation Restoration, a program empowering women impacted by incarceration to successfully re-enter the community.
We support these types of programs as well as programs that are on the forefront of the Players Coalition mission. There are many reform projects that face our society including working with our police departments to help improve citizen relationships, supporting the public defender’s office and working to impact prison reform. We are proud of our work with the District Attorney’s office supporting victim’s issues as well. These are all complicated and yet they must be addressed together.
These are not programs that were born out of this tragedy, but long before, in an effort to change a course of action and make systemic changes in social justice. One of the things I am proud of as owner is the leadership of our players on both the Saints and Pelicans. They share my sincere feeling in caring about our community and they care about the issues that face our community.
Today, we spoke with Demario, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick. These players are passionate about finding a solution and working in solidarity with their fellow teammates. They are all committed to change, addressing action items and building towards future social change.
I am proud to have them in our organization. We reached out seeking their advice and direction on what we can be doing more precisely to directly impact systemic change for a more just world. These are daunting initiatives, but if unified in these efforts we can make positive change. Our organization has always been a beacon of bringing our community together. We have the unique opportunity to work together with our current NBA and NFL players to find more solutions. There is still so much more work to do.
I stand with them and I will rely on their leadership and direction to make sure we are making the most powerful impact we can. And I am proud to announce that these three players will join me in a newly created Social Justice Leadership Coalition, within our organization. I welcome any of our other players to join as well. Our goal will be to advocate for issues of change when and where we are able to in black and brown communities. Hopefully our work will be a model for others. They will have my full support.
A few years ago, our organization created a Diversity and Inclusion Council, made up of our employees. The Council strives to provide a voice in the company for all employees, especially those historically marginalized. They provide managers with training in understanding and eliminating unconscious bias in our recruiting efforts to educate our leaders on developing an inclusive recruiting mentality to create a better workforce.
This is what we should be doing in these trying times. This is not about making statements to appease people. This is about making a difference and working together. We have a lot of work to do to impact real change. I pray we can continue to advance this unity, peacefully.
Mrs. Gayle Benson, Owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans
Mrs. Benson became one of the first NFL owners to release a statement addressing the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis on May 25th. Nevertheless, the Pelicans have been one of the last teams in the NBA to share comments on the matter. Mrs. Benson offered an insightful response to the tragedy. She selected three athletes in her organizations, Pelicans Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, and Saints LB Demario Davis, to be members of her organization, Social Justice Leadership Coalition. The purpose of the organization is to advocate for social change in black and brown minority communities in the U.S. Ball was a part of a peaceful protest in Chino Hills on Sunday with his two brothers, Almelo and LiAngelo. Ball continued his message of support on social media. Saints LB Demario Davis has been at the forefront of social issues in the African-American New Orleans community since he arrived as a free-agent signee.
Benson said, “Today, we spoke with Demario, Lonzo Ball, and JJ Redick. These players are passionate about finding a solution and working in solidarity with their fellow teammates. They are all committed to change, addressing actions, and building towards future social change.”
The Social Justice Leadership Coalition was not born out of this week’s events or the George Floyd tragedy. It was an effort to change a course of action and ensure systemic changes in social justice. One thing the Saints and Pelicans owner is proud of is the community leadership of her New Orleans Saints and Pelicans players. Saints' S Malcolm Jenkins took part in a peaceful protest in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Hopefully, those in charge of the NFL will continue their support of a real change in the country. Professional football in the United States is a sport comprised of young African-American young men. 70% of the NFL players, African-Americans, have their humanity challenged every day away from the protection of the stadiums, practice facilities, and team headquarters. They may need to hear a more vocal way of support from the owners; to know they genuinely have their respect as humans and not commodities which help yield billions of dollars per year.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell posted a statement from the league last week. Mrs. Benson as an NFL team owner provided leadership and a positive message. It was a voice necessary for NFL and NBA players to hear from someone in an executive role addressing an important issue they face daily as African-American males in America.