Those who live in Louisiana or sports fans in general are probably familiar with the Bensons, the couple who own the New Orleans Saints football team and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team. What some may not know is the story of how the Bensons acquired the team, and what the plan is for when the team must be sold.
Back when the Saints were a poor franchise, constantly on the verge of being sold and moved out of New Orleans, Tom Benson saved the day by buying the Saints and ensuring the team's continued presence in their home city. After Katrina in 2005, Tom was faced with a damaged Superdome and a hurricane-ravaged city. Nevertheless, he bravely decided to keep the Saints in Louisiana because he knew just how much the team meant to the city and the state of Louisiana.
Years later, in 2012, Tom boosted his city's sports presence yet again by buying the New Orleans Hornets. He changed their name a year later to the more locally appropriate New Orleans Pelicans.
It goes without saying that New Orleans sports would not be the same without Tom. That means no football team, no basketball team and no Saints Super Bowl. Although the Bensons' impact in the sports world is phenomenal, the couple's impact off the field may be even more remarkable.
After Tom Benson's passing in 2018, his wife Gayle Benson assumed ownership of the two teams. Since Gayle has no heirs, the looming question has been of what will happen to the Saints and Pelicans when Gayle passes away.
Thanks to remarkable work by Jeff Duncan, a sports columnist for Nola.com, we now know the answer. In true Benson fashion, all the proceeds from the sale of the teams will be donated to numerous charities, schools and causes throughout New Orleans and Louisiana. The money given to the community is expected to be the largest in Louisiana history.
The Saints have drastically increased in value since the team was first acquired by Tom and are now expected to be worth nearly $3 billion. The sale of the Pelicans will also surely involve substantial sums of money. This means there will soon be billions of dollars flowing into our state thanks to the Bensons.
Before Tom's passing, the Bensons agreed on a list of beneficiaries to manage the sale of the teams. This list is confidential and currently in the hands of Dennis Lauscha, the president of both the Saints and the Pelicans. When the time comes, Lauscha will oversee the deal.
Most of the money is expected to go toward education, arts and sciences, health care and humanitarian causes. Some of the most prominent beneficiaries of the Bensons in the past have been Ochsner, several New Orleans high schools and universities, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Team Gleason and Second Harvest Food Bank.
What else is so extraordinary about this deal? The city and state will reap the rewards for several years to come. After the first round of distributions, any remaining money will remain in a trust and continue to be poured into the city annually.
Gayle Benson said to Nola.com, "I can't take it with me. God gives us gifts, and this is a gift… My wish is to scatter all the good and gifts that God and Tom have given me to this city and community."
We need more people like Tom and Gayle Benson in the world. Generosity can come in many forms, not just money. My hope is that we can all be a little more generous. With money, love, kindness— whatever it may be.
Thank you to the Bensons for paving the way.
Elizabeth Crochet is a 20-year-old political communication junior from New Orleans.