Gayle Benson on the New Orleans Saints Podcast presented by SeatGeek
March 25, 2020
On how she is doing and her health:
"My health is great, thank God, Daniel (Sallerson). I'm really in great shape. I wake up every morning at 5:30 and I get on the treadmill for three miles. Then, three times a week, I have a trainer and she now sends her videos to me for strength training...so I'm in pretty good shape. I'm staying home alone with very few limited staff, but of course I have my two little Yorkies to keep me company. Anybody that comes in, their temperature gets checked and we have sanitizer and we wash our hands all day long. I get to bed early every night and I start over the next day."
On the challenges of having to stay home and not be around the people she works so closely with:
"It's been extremely frustrating to not be able to go to the office, but I am in constant touch with all of the businesses, every day. I have the NFL and the NBA that I am on the phone with and then of course the Saints and the Pelicans and Dixie Beer and the Hyatt, Benson Tower, the car dealerships, and the farm. So, I have a lot to do. I'm on numerous calls every day. My day starts with an 8:30 a.m. conference call with all the executives and then during the day – different times during the day, I talk with the vice presidents. Actually last Friday we had a conference call with all the employees, which was a challenge but our most competent IT department pulled it off successfully which was very gratifying. They are just great. We had our employees send in questions. So we were able to answer their questions in our delivery, which worked out perfectly."
On her communication with Pelicans and Saints basketball and football operations personnel:
"I'm in constant touch with the Pelicans, with David Griffin and Alvin Gentry. I'm so confident that the Pelicans are staying ready. We owe this to our fans, and we're ready to deliver. They're a young team, they're getting healthy, and before this virus started we were getting to the eighth seed. I'm in daily contact with David and Alvin – and they're also working remotely – and I'm hoping that we can continue this roll that we were on earlier. Both teams are working so hard to deliver a successful season, and I'm so proud of all of them."
On recent Saints and Pelicans free agents pointing to team and locker room culture as a main attraction in coming to New Orleans:
"As good as all of those things are, and as good as our culture is, this whole virus thing is really bigger than basketball and football. We need to care for our citizens first and foremost. As I said earlier, I truly believe we have the best team, executives, vice presidents, and employees in the NFL and the NBA combined. Mickey (Loomis), Sean (Payton), the coaches, and the scouts, they're all working remotely from home, which is very difficult. But we're all ready to get back together soon. Winning comes from that hard work and commitment, and we're all a part of a team. We will return stronger than ever, I'm confident. I just miss everyone so much: the players, the fans, the employees, just everybody. It's so frustrating. But, we need to flatten this curve together and be confident in knowing that I'm going to remember all of them in prayers and we're going to look back on this as just another thing that happened to us in New Orleans."
On her communication with Sean Payton and how he is doing during this tough time:
"I have talked to Sean and he's doing better. He's talking about going to play golf, so he is getting better. He's still quarantined, so he still has to kind of cool it. But he is getting better. I'm glad that he was able to stay home and take care of himself during this time, but it worked out for him. The Archbishop (Gregory Aymond) also had a problem with it, and he's been staying home and I've been keeping in touch with him also because you know we're very close."
On the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund and her desire to take action swiftly to help those affected by COVID-19:
"This is something my husband, Tom Benson, would've done. We as a city are resilient and we're going to get through this. We're a city of family and we take care of each other. That's what we do. I was really humbled to start that Gayle Benson Fund. I so much appreciate Andy Kopplin for taking care of it for us. Andy is going to be certain that the money will get into the hands of the most needy, and this means so much to me because a large portion of the people work for us on game day. I believe we're going to be back soon. I'm very confident in that. It's just going to take time and patience on our part."
On the community rallying together to take care of one another during this trying time:
"It really does make you feel good to know that everybody's rallying together and it's a new challenge for all of us, and a new way of all of us doing business. So, we all need to work together on this. We're a resilient city, the challenges are not new to us. We've been through so many and we'll continue to bounce back. We have over the years and we will continue to. Some of the young people might not remember some of the challenges that the veterans have been through. But we understand how tough it's been and we'll always come back. Soon this is going to be marked as another challenge we overcame and we'll look back proudly at how we handled it with grace. We're part of the social fabric of New Orleans and we can and will handle all these challenges. I just miss all of our fans, and I can't wait for both seasons to start up again – both with the Saints and the Pelicans and all of our other businesses – and just to see everybody again. I just miss hugging everybody and holding hands, and shaking hands, and doing all those things that people do."
On Zion Williamson pledging to cover the Smoothie King Center employees affected by the NBA's stoppage of play and representing this organization:
"That is such an incredible gesture on his part. I mean it just shows you his background and his family and I'm so honored to have him working with us. I mean he's such an incredible young man. All of our players are incredible people, but him stepping up like that – I mean it really took my breath away. It was such a sweet, kind gesture on his part and I'm just so proud that he's part of our team."
On her message to the fans and those on the front lines dealing with this virus in the entire region:
"Just to please follow the guidelines. I know it's difficult, but we must follow the guidelines. We owe a debt of gratitude to those on the front lines treating those impacted. We have a special relationship with Ochsner, and they're doing such an amazing job as are the other hospitals in our area. I make calls and I text some of the doctors that I know every day just to ask them how they're doing, because I don't know if anybody thinks about how the doctors and nurses are really impacted by this. Warner (Thomas) and I talk frequently. The doctors throughout our region, health-care workers, the nurses, the assistants, the food service, the EMS, firemen, the policemen, and our mayor and governor and city officials…they're all doing an incredible job and they're just working so hard for all of us. We need to help flatten this curve and make a difference. Let's work together to beat this virus. Practice social distancing. I really miss everyone and I want everyone to stay safe and I want to see them all again at the games real soon."