New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson was among five NFL owners honored with an American Spirit Award by The National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Monday night. Benson, who served in the Navy, was recognized along with fellow World War II veterans Bud Adams (Tennessee Titans), William Clay Ford (Detroit Lions), Alex Spanos (San Diego Chargers) and Ralph Wilson (Buffalo Bills).
The museum is kicking off an initiative to tell the story of the role that football and the NFL played in the war effort. According to the museum, the NFL sold millions in war bonds, donated revenues from exhibition games to service charities and even merged teams so that the game would go on, boosting the country's morale. More than 1,000 NFL players and personnel enlisted, including 47 future Hall of Famers and six team owners.
"The American Spirit Award is rich in history," Benson said. "I am truly honored to not only be a recipient but to share the award with four other well-deserving NFL owners. This makes it that more unique and special."
Benson served in the United States Navy in 1945 aboard the U.S.S. South Dakota and has remained particularly close to this branch of the armed forces. He is the only enlisted man to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Pensacola Naval Museum and has been honored with an award from the crew of the submarine U.S.S. Louisiana. In 2007, he was honored by the U.S. Navy Memorial with the Lone Sailor Award, presented to those who exemplify the core values of honor, courage and commitment. In 2009, Benson was presented with the U.S. Army's Army Strong Award in recognition for his position in the community while demonstrating leadership and Army Values on a daily basis.