Opinion: Disparaging words about New Orleans Saints draft location spark ire

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 08: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts to a call during a NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 08, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 08: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts to a call during a NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 08, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

USA Today reporter Nancy Armour had some not-so-nice things to say about the New Orleans Saints draft day plans.

The New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton fired back though.

That said, gathering information is simple – a quick search of the internet is at your fingertips, on a computer or even on your smartphone. Honest errors aside, there’s not much reason a writer can’t gather enough information to write an informed article.

So it’s with a tremendous amount of surprise we found the editorial in USA Today disparaging the New Orleans Saints for using the Dixie Brewery as the site for their NFL Draft war room. The editorial opened with a tremendously derogatory statement on the Saints finding a way to be “dumber than Mike Ditka on draft day”.

Columnist Nancy Armour laments fans walking by to see the draft and first responders having to devote their time to being present to keep fans away.

"“You can’t tell me that Saints fans won’t decide to take a casual stroll past the Dixie Brewery in hopes of getting a glimpse of Payton or general manager Mickey Loomis, not thinking – or caring – that others will have the same idea.” – Nancy Armour"

That said, the brewery is a full brewery, not just a brew pub. It’s not a bar. Do they serve beer there when there are people there? Yes.  But there are no people there currently, so there is no beer being served.

The facility is over 80,000 square feet and sits on 14 GATED acres of land.

The brewery is owned by Saints owner Gayle Benson and only opened in its current location earlier this year (they began brewing beer there in November of 2019). So the brewery has everything at its disposal that the Saints might want or need. Their draft war room will be in one of the brewery’s meeting spaces.

In accordance with the NFL’s guidelines, there will be a minimal number of people allowed in the room. The Saints have said there will be four staff members there and the other scouts and personnel will be included by video conferencing.

Other estimates have said there may be as many as seven people in the room, but even that – distanced out in this large room – is well within CDC recommendations. Anyone coming into the room must have their temperature taken and the room will be sanitized regularly.

Saints coach Sean Payton was having little of the editorial. He replied to the piece with his own tweet to the publication and its author.

The notion that someone might just casually stroll by the facility is maybe the most laughable part of this. The facility is across the Industrial Canal in New Orleans East. There is one access road to get to the place. This isn’t a pedestrian area; no one just strolls down Almonaster Boulevard.

For that matter, not many people drive on Almonaster on that side of the Industrial Canal either, unless they are going to the brewery, a commercial vehicle, or dumping garbage on the side of the roadway. It’s not a populated area of town.

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The issue causing all this is the NFL has shut down all team facilities in the wake of COVID-19. This is completely sensible and logical. No one doesn’t take this virus seriously, especially the Saints, considering Sean Payton had this virus and has since conquered it.

So what may be less sensible is holding the draft at all at this time.

Several people, including Saints general manager Mickey Loomis have spoken out against holding the draft currently. It is already difficult for teams to do all their due diligence on players, and holding the draft remotely is even more difficult.

For the Saints, the decision to do it at the brewery was making the best of a terrible situation.

To be certain, the NFL is not an essential business at this point. Maybe there doesn’t need to be a draft at this time. But as of this moment, the draft is still going on. So the Saints are using a facility owned by Mrs. Benson that can be completely controlled inside and out.

In a later discussion on WWL-Radio with host Kristian Garic and former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, Ms. Armour continued her tack, stating that people across the country might not know the difference between a bar and a brewery.

But instead of enlightening people to the size of the facility, she continued to refer to it as a bar.

They also discussed the fact that walking near the facility is highly unlikely. She had no reply when they commented on the fact that the facility is remote, gated, and would be shut down during the event. Armour continued by saying the “optics” of having the draft war room in a bar is poor.

It’s mainly poor because she erroneously called it a bar and portrayed the Saints as irresponsible, instead of accurately portraying the space as a meeting room in a large brewery owned by the team’s owner.

"“This isn’t just a dumb idea by the Saints. It’s a dangerous one.” – closing quote from Armour’s editorial."

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It seems Ms. Armour’s point was to target the NFL for even having a draft, a point many football fans might get behind. So targeting the Saints for their choice of location seemed almost secondary. It’s very sad that this direction was the one chosen.