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Governor Edwards, senate president say financial incentives for Saints must be honored

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

While the Saints football team is across the pond in London, the controversy over what some of the players did on the field before Sunday’s game continues.

Wednesday Governor John Bel Edwards added his voice to the public discourse during an interview with WWL Radio.

"I always stand for the National Anthem, I encourage others to do so and I happen to think that there are equally effective other ways for individuals to express themselves and to protest and I think we should all recognize that there is a constitutional right to engage in speech and in expression in ways that some people find offensive,” said the governor.

"I totally agree with the governor in that, I think there's a better way to protest this thing, I respect their right to do it as Americans,” said State Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.

This week a St. Francisville state lawmaker, Rep. Kenny Havard suggested the state discontinue its financial support of the Saints franchise.

"The Saints are getting free rent at the Superdome obviously, and they get the concessions that come in, parking, there's some contract with them for Champions Square for events that go on in that area, the state has an arrangement to rent space from him at Benson Towers, if they weren't renting from him they'd rent it in some other facilities,” said Alario.

It is not an idea that sits well with some other New Orleans area state legislators.

“I texted the representative to let him know the other side of the story and I’ve had a chance to talk to many individuals who live in my district and what I am hearing from a lot of folks is one, you did not see a Saints protest, not one person with the Saints protest until the president said something,” said Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans.

Less than a dozen Saints players did not stand for the National Anthem, so Rep. Havard was asked why he's trying to punish the entire organization.

"This is not about punishment. You shouldn't be allowed if you're receiving taxpayer money to be political in nature,” Havard said.

"I think that people ought to stand for the National Anthem, however, I think we have a contractual obligation with the Saints, it would be the same if we contracted with a major industry to come to Louisiana and say, come on and then we seem to disagree with them somewhere along the way on a social issue and then we pull the rug out from under them. That would not speak well for our state for doing future contracts with other people,” Sen. Alario stated.

Criticism of the Saints getting financial incentives is not new from some lawmakers outside the New Orleans area.

“You always get some movement, anti-New Orleans feeling, some anti-Saints feelings, rallying around a flag is easy to do and I understand it.  I support them in that area of it, but I do disagree that we ought to renege on any types of agreements made,” Alario continued.

The governor agrees the contract must be honored.

“I don't think we have any choice but to meet whatever contractual obligations we have to the Saints, but we will participate in all the discussions and make sure that the people of Louisiana, the legislature know exactly what those obligations are and we'll have a good discussion, but I look forward to working through this and finding a way to unite people, again, who are on various sides of different issues.”

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