Mayor: Will Smith's killing no reflection on city's ability to host events

Mayor Landrieu says Will Smith's killing no reflection on city's ability to host huge sports events

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Since the weekend shooting death of former Saints player Will Smith on a New Orleans street, talk of the city's gun violence problem seems to be on steroids. And high-profile sports figures are a big part of the chatter.

All of this is happening as New Orleans is a finalist for the 2019 Super Bowl.

"It's a tragedy all the way around, there's no way to count it, but this is not a reflection on the people of the city of New Orleans or our ability to host sporting events," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The mayor said he has spoken to the man in charge of the National Football League in the wake of Smith's death.

"I spoke to Commissioner [Roger] Goodell yesterday about that," Landrieu said.

Saints head coach Sean Payton, reacting to Smith's death, talked openly to USA Today about his strong disdain for guns and violence.

"I just know this: Our city is broken," he was quoted as saying.

Landrieu reacted to Peyton's statements and to those of some other sports figures.

"I just think Coach Peyton can be forgiven for being emotional at the moment. He lost a very dear friend, and it's OK, but it's not on the people of this city, it's, you know, on the individuals who were involved in this incident who could have and should have maybe tried to resolve this minor fender bender in a way that didn't result in somebody's death," said the mayor.

Former Saints player Pierre Thomas took to Instagram to publicly lament Smith's death and the alleged circumstances surrounding it:

"The last few days has [have] been a whirlwind and I am still trying to wrap my head around this whole thing. I flew out of New Orleans last night and back to Chicago because I couldn't think straight... I witnessed a close friend, teammate and a man that I thought of as one of my big brothers in the NFL shot to death OVER A (expletive) FENDER BENDER!!!!"

"I noticed that Pierre Thomas made a comment that he was going back to Chicago which of course, you know, is very interesting in and of itself. We have these problems all over the country, and of course since the day that I was elected I've been talking about the culture of violence in the city of New Orleans and look forward very much to having Coach Peyton's help and Drew Brees' and the entire Saints organization help in training up a generation of men who know how to resolve peaceably. But that does not have anything to do with happened on this particular night," said the mayor.

For the talk of New Orleans crime, some hope it will not be in vain, but will lead to meaningful dialogue and possible solutions.

"We had hoped after a week this dialogue doesn't stop. Obviously this is a big problem in the U.S., not only in New Orleans, obviously. New Orleans gets a lot of attention," said Dillard University Criminologist, Dr. Ashraf Esmail.

Esmail was in court for one of the court hearings this week for Cardell Hayes, the local man accused of killing Smith during the alleged road-rage incident. He said in general anger and guns come into play too easily in everyday situations.

"When are we going to be non-fearful, that's the issue that we're going to have, and again, it's not about the guns. I wish we'd get rid of them. It's the people shooting these guns," he said.

And in terms of hosting major sports events, it's not just the Super Bowl that New Orleans goes after, and has in the past been awarded. The city has hosted the NBA All-Star Game and other events, and despite the tragedy of what happened to Will Smith last Saturday, Landrieu said New Orleans remains a suitable venue.

"The irony is that weekend we had 790,000 people in this city, enjoying this city, and they had a great time and they did it peaceably," he said.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.