Gayle Benson says ‘I miss everyone’ in podcast
With one of the leaders of her franchises and another close confidant having tested positive for the coronavirus, Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson understands the need to take all precautions regarding COVID-19.
On the Pelicans Podcast Wednesday, Mrs. Benson said she speaks to Saints coach Sean Payton regularly. “He’s doing better. He’s talking about going to play golf … but he’s still quarantined, but he is getting better.
“The Archbishop (Gregory Aymond) has been staying home and I’ve been staying in touch with him also.”
Being able to connect by telephone during this work-from-home time frame isn’t the same as meeting face to face.
“It’s been extremely frustrating not to be able to go to the office,” Mrs. Benson said. “I am in constant touch with all of the businesses every day. I have the NFL and NBA … the Saints and Pelicans, Dixie Beer, the Hyatt, Benson Tower, the car dealerships and the farm. I’m on numerous calls every day.
“My day starts with an 8:30 conference call with all the executives. During the day, I talk with the vice presidents. Last Friday, we had a conference call with all the employees, which was a challenge, but our IT department pulled it off.”
While the Saints and the NFL are a week into free agency, the Pelicans’ season is on hold after the league suspended play 14 days ago.
“I’m so confident the Pelicans are staying ready,” she said. “We owe this to our fans. They’re a young team. They’re getting healthy. Before this virus started, we were getting (close) to the eighth seed. I’m in contact with David (Griffin) and Alvin (Gentry).”
The impact of COVID-19 is massive, Mrs. Benson said.
“This whole virus thing is bigger than basketball and football,” she said. “We need to care for our citizens first and foremost. I truly believe we have the best executives … and employees in the NBA and NFL combined. We’re all ready to get back together soon, and winning comes from that hard work and commitment.”
Mrs. Benson donated $1 million last week to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund.
“It’s something my husband, Tom Benson, would have done,” she said. “I was really humbled to start this fund. Andy (Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation) is going to be certain the money gets into the hands of the most needy.”
Rookie Zion Williamson stepped up as well to ensure that game-day employees at Smoothie King Center would be paid during the suspension.
“That is such an incredible gesture,” Mrs. Benson said. “I’m so honored to have him working with us. Stepping up like that really took my breath away.”
Facing challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing new to New Orleans.
“We’re a resilient city,” Mrs. Benson said, “but challenges are not new to us. Soon it’s going to be marked as another challenge we overcame. (The Saints and Pelicans) are part of the social fabric of New Orleans, and we can and will handle all these challenges.
“I miss everyone – the players, the fans, the employees. We need to flatten this curve together.”
The entire interview with Daniel Sallerson of the Pelicans radio network is available at Pelicans.com.
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As a New Orleans-area native, Jude grew up a fan of all sports and teams in the area. It’s a passion for the games that brought him into the fields of sports broadcasting and journalism. Whether he’s informing, reporting or entertaining, Jude brings his own special flavor to the task at hand. This Jesuit High School and Loyola New Orleans…