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It didn't seem appropriate in the days after Hurricane Katrina to talk about what some had been whispering. Sports, after all, was the least important issue for people to deal with in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But as the whispers grew louder, the story forced its way into the news, and now LAist is responsible for covering it. Yesterday, County Supervisor Mike Antonovich suggested the Coliseum play host to the New Orleans Saints this season, while the city recovers from the tragic destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The NFL rebuffed the offer because it's not feasible for this year. The Saints, for their part, have expressed a desire to play closer to their fans, preferably in Baton Rouge. But some speculate that the team would really like to play in San Antonio, or move to Los Angeles.
The Saints possible move to Los Angeles is something we've discussed before. Even before the hurricane, it was a scenario that seemed plausible and sensible. The Saints had little fan support in New Orleans. There was no significant corporate base. And the team was losing money. Moving to the nation's second largest market seemed like the perfect antidote for the franchise's problems, and the team had an out-clause in their stadium lease to make it happen.
Few in the LA media have been as gung-ho about LA getting an NFL team as LAist. Or at least this LAist writer. But when the idea of Hurricane Katrina forcing the Saints to move to LA came up, our first reaction was "no, not this way." Yes, we want a football team badly. Yes, it's been a tough decade since the Rams and Raiders left. But this is a time when the Saints should be rallying around the city of New Orleans, not abandoning it. For a city that has been practically destroyed, the Saints could serve as a valuable morale booster in these troubled times.
Unfortunately, that may not be possible right now. First ESPN.com's excellent NFL reporter Len Pasquarelli began delicately posing questions about the Saints future, adding that now was not the time to think about them, but that the questions would eventually have to be addressed.
Now it has been reported that the Superdome is likely to be torn down, meaning the Saints will not have a home field in the city of New Orleans any time soon. And by that, we mean, several years. For all we know, it could be more than a decade before New Orleans has anything close to the infrastructure to support an NFL team again, which like we said, they were barely doing adequately before.
Therefore, a Saints move to Los Angeles seems more realistic than ever. While San Antonio is also a viable option, and Saints owner Tom Benson has ties to the Alamo city, it just doesn't have anything close to the market power of LA.
So, LAist has a proposal. If it is true that the Saints really cannot play in New Orleans for the forseeable future, then we think they might as well move here instead of San Antonio. We would want the team to have a new name though, one that represented the city of Los Angeles. But as the Saints move west, we think the NFL should promise a new team in the city of New Orleans. The team would be either a relocated team or an expansion team, and it would begin play when the city fully recovers. That team would be called the New Orleans Saints, sort of in the spirit of the Cleveland Browns rebirth. And the NFL would have to pay for the whole stadium using its new stadium fund, since New Orleans needs to use all of the resources it has to rebuild the rest of its infrastructure. That's about the only palatable way LAist could imagine the Saints coming here at this time.