The Atlanta Falcons Refuse to be a Part of the Saints 'Rebirth'

By Michael Collins

The New Orleans Saints built a statue commemorating a very famous moment with their most bitter rival, but the Atlanta Falcons don’t want any part of it.  Is this sour grapes by Atlanta, or just the Saints rubbing the Falcons’ noses in it?

The statue – titled ‘Rebirth‘ – is a depiction of one of the key plays during the historic Monday Night Football game in which the Saints made their triumphant return to the Superdome following the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina.  It was a night that the Saints leveled the Falcons, and as important as that game is to the people of New Orleans, it’s probably one that folks in Atlanta was just assume forget.

The bronze figures in the statue standing outside the New Orleans Superdome show Saints’ defensive back Steve Gleason stretching out to block the ball from the foot of a punter.  A nameless, logo-less punter.

The problem is, when this played occurred in 2006, the punter had both a name and a logo.  It was former Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen.

There is a script on the base of the statue that reads:

On Monday, September 25, 2006, Steve Gleason was responsible for one of the most dramatic moments in New Orleans Saints history. He blocked a punt in the first quarter of the team’s return to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. That night, the Saints defeated their rival Atlanta Falcons, 23-3. It would kick-start an improbable run for a team that would go on to win the NFC South crown and play for the NFC Championship that season. That blocked punt, that season, symbolized the “rebirth” of the city of New Orleans.

Once the tribute was commissioned, the Saints organization reportedly made several attempts to convince the Falcons to allow Atlanta’s logo and Koenen’s name to be used, but were met with the cold shoulder from the Falcons front office.

Some have even accused the Falcons brass of of being unfriendly and callous about the statue, but Falcons president Rich McKay gave a much different explanation.

“We all understand how important the moment was for the city and what they had gone through,” McKay said. “We all lived in that moment and it was a pretty special thing. Even losing, it was still a pretty special thing. But it was just something that when we talked to the league about it, we said we didn’t think it was appropriate to put the marks on it. Everybody knew what the game was. Everybody knew what the moment was.”

In a nutshell – commemorate your moment, but leave our trademarks off, thank you very much.

Perhaps it’s actually better for New Orleans this way.  If the statue is truly what they intend it to be – a reminder of how the Saints helped to pull a drowning city to safety – then there is no need for a rival’s logo or name to be anywhere on it.  Let it be about the Saints and their victory for the city, not about how they got to put another notch on their helmets in the deep south’s ugliest rivalry.

After all, how willing would the Saints ownership be to having their trademarks on a statue outside the Georgia Dome titled, Big Ben?

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