Tom Benson makes record donation to Hall of Fame

Getty Images

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has embarked on an ambitious plan to construct a Hall of Fame Village.  Saints owner Tom Benson has given the project an enormous chunk of seed money.

As reported last night by Peter King of on NBC’s Football Night in America, Benson has made an historic donation to the Hall of Fame.

A statement released confirming the $11 million gift reveals that the Hall of Fame will rename the venue that hosts the annual Hall of Fame game and enshrinement ceremony as the “Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.”  Of Benson’s gift, $10 million will be used to upgrade the facility that also serves as the home for two high school teams and two college teams.

The other $1 million from Benson will be devoted to the Hall of Fame’s Legends Landing Program, which is intended to provide assistance and housing for Hall of Famers and former NFL players who are in grave financial need.

“My donation to the Hall of Fame was an easy decision,” Mr. Benson said in a statement.  “It was a right decision and it was a decision that I believe will have great impact on the current game and help foster a better game in the future while also having direct and tangible impacts on the Legends of our game with the Legends Landing.”

Mr. Benson, who purchased the Saints in 1985, also sent a letter to his fellow owners requesting that they match his $1 million gift to the Legends Landing Program.

“While recognition for a gift like this is nice, it is not the point,” Benson said.  “The point is understanding what is behind the plans for the Hall of Fame Village. . . .  Once I learned them I wanted to play a role. . . .  I feel this small part I am playing here is my way of saying thank you to the great game of football.”

It’s a great gesture, and here’s hoping that others who have benefited from the game of football will follow Mr. Benson’s lead.

42 responses to “Tom Benson makes record donation to Hall of Fame

  1. And yet you’ll hear nothing but chirping crickets when owners are called on to pay for their own palatial monolith stadiums instead of extorting taxpayer money which should be going to schools, the police force, the fire stations, the parks, etc.

  2. Man, $5,000,000 donation for ALS research, now $11,000,000 for this?

    Class act, Mr. Benson. Wish there were more owners like you.

  3. If it was not for Katrina you would be the Los Angelas Saints.Funny how it took a tragic event to keep the team in the big easy. I have no love for you Mr Phony Benson.

  4. Once again the Saints show why they are the class of the league donating millions to charities and communities abroad. Don’t think so? Ask Steve Gleason or Devon Still. The Saints community efforts are unmatched.

  5. In April of 2005, Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, halted lease negotiations with the state of Louisiana until after the completion of the 2005 NFL Season, due to a stadium dispute.Rumors quickly began to spread that San Antonio, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California were being considered as possible destinations for the team. It was reported that Benson had strong interest in relocating to San Antonio due to owning a substantial amount of property in the region and having strong business interests within the city, specifically related to his car dealership empire.

  6. As a teacher at one of the high schools mentioned above, it is very exciting to see the amount of money that is going into the Hall of Fame. They are building several new facilities around it that will benefit Canton tremendously. Thank you, Mr. Benson.

  7. Various media reports in the San Antonio Express-News indicated the owner and government officials in San Antonio were working behind the scenes concerning a possible permanent relocation to San Antonio. San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger had pushed a strong verbal campaign to pursue the Saints. Other officials, including Texas Governor Rick Perry, had indicated that they would also support a relocation to San Antonio, including using funding to upgrade the Alamodome, or possibly build a new stadium. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose team currently has San Antonio as part of its territorial rights, also supported an NFL team moving to San Antonio. However, the NFL and commissioner Paul Tagliabue were both in favor of keeping the franchise in New Orleans or at least delaying a decision on a potential relocation. Other rumors of the period said that the NFL preferred to move the team to Los Angeles, or even to expand to Toronto instead, as both cities are over twice the size of San Antonio.

  8. Many fans in Louisiana[who?] were angered and felt that Hardberger and Perry were taking advantage of New Orleans’ misfortunes to try to steal the Saints. Benson’s actions also drew the anger of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who called Benson’s actions shameful and disrespectful to New Orleans fans who have supported the team for nearly four decades of mostly losing seasons. San Antonio officials, on the other hand, countered that Benson may have no choice—at the time, it was thought by some that New Orleans might never fully recover as a viable location for an NFL franchise, and that they were simply giving the franchise an option to relocate and remain economically viable, in this case to a city in which Benson already lives and has business interests. Benson indicated in his open letter to the Gulf Coast that San Antonio officials were only doing what any city seeking a franchise would do—recruit the franchise.

  9. Doesn’t the NFL make enough money? Why not give that money to a food bank or something? Probably because the food bank wouldn’t agree to put his name anywhere

  10. On April 13, 2012, it was announced that Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, had purchased the franchise from the NBA for $338 million. In addition, Benson has announced that he will change the team name to something that would better suit the region, fueling rumors that the Hornets name could one day return to Charlotte, where the Bobcats play.In June 2012, Benson appointed two senior Saints executives to supervise the Hornets as well: Saints general manager Mickey Loomis became head of basketball operations, overseeing general manager Dell Demps, and Saints business operations head Dennis Lauscha took on the same role with the Hornets

  11. I’m sure the city of Canton is really excited to have a nursing home full of brain addled former players. Seems a strange concept. Why not just a fund to have them cared for where they live.

    Or why not have it in Florida at least. At least they can get out in the sunshine.

  12. Benson is piece of garbage in imho . A real bad guy who took advantage of a catastrophic event to gain leverage and keep the team in New Orleans.

  13. people are suffering thorough out this great nation and this guy is donating to a multi billion dollar company. Does that seem right to you?

  14. Its all about cash and how much you could get in Ransom money.I like the Saints but I hate Benson. PHONY !!!!!

  15. While undoubtedly an awesome gesture, and I’ll take nothing away from that, I have no doubt he was also thinking about his legacy. And having the stadium the HoF game is played in named after you is a pretty darn good one.

    I see nothing wrong with that, because in the end, he still gave over 10 million. And his publicity about the note to the other owners will most likely get another 31 million donated as well, lol. So good on him.

  16. Isn’t this the owner who rolled out some Mercedes Benz’s for his players to purchase, during training camp, before the NFL gave yes GAVE him a super bowl title?

  17. Renovations to the NFL HoF is long overdue. For the most popular sport in America, that place is a dump. There’s no excuse for the HoF to be so aged and underwhelming.

    Kudos to Mr. Benson for investing in his own product. It’s great that the working class town of Canton and surrounding communities will be able to make use of the improved field.

  18. Good for Mr. Benson. But I know a number of people who aren’t fans of his. As a lifelong Saints fan I’ve seen much misery. But for me the lowest point as a fan was sitting in Tiger Stadium with my dad and brother during the Katrina season to watch the Saints play the Dolphins. When the game started there were about 40000 people in the stands. By the middle of the third quarter the Saints were getting embarrassed and the crowd shrank to maybe about 5000 people. I remember all the talk about moving the team and I felt sick. I thought to myself that this might actually be the last time I lay eyes on the New Orleans Saints. The team I followed since I was 5 might be no more. At that game Tom Benson was booed by a few dozen Saints fans venting frustration and displeasure over his comments about moving the team. I saw him flip the bird to the Saints fans who were there to support the team. He also told the fans to “shut the f*** up.” I was no more than thirty feet from the man when he did it. After the game, when reports of the incident began to leak out, he told reporters he felt he was being harassed and that his life was in danger from the fans. For all intents and purposes Benson had decided the Saints were leaving New Orleans. The handwriting was on the wall so to speak. The rest of the season had the local media telling fans to accept the very real possibility New Orleans would no longer have an NFL team. It was a real body blow but I understood this was likely to happen considering the city was nearly wiped off the map.
    I know that it is first and foremost a business. I understand that reality. The man is a self-made billionaire and I respect him for what he has achieved since his days growing up dirt poor in the Ninth Ward. I understand he’s in it to make money. It isn’t a charity and he owes nothing to the fans. I also do not fault him for making the choices he did at the time. It is all about dollars and cents and he didn’t make a billion of those dollars by making bad financial moves. But he didn’t stay in New Orleans out of the kindness of his heart.
    Paul Tagliabue forced Benson to keep the team in New Orleans to prevent Benson from handing the league a huge public relations nightmare. Tagliabue even made this comment publicly. The league made Benson keep the team here on a trial basis to determine the feasibility of the city keeping the franchise. After meeting with Tagliabue, Benson held a press conference with Tagliabue and said that he (Benson) did his part and lectured that fans now needed to do theirs (buy tickets/support the team). He also said he had an understanding with the league that if the financial support wasn’t there he would move the team without hesitation. I remember watching him say all this and wondered why he flipped off the fans who were supporting the team that day in Baton Rouge even though many of them probably were in the midst of rebuilding after the storm. Benson lucked out and was able, through Mickey Loomis, to sign a great head coach and make the greatest free agent signing in the history of the league. Things have been night and day since but I and many other Saints fans will never forget how Benson acted after Katrina.

  19. He’s playing the samaratin now — and playing it well — but don’t let this guy fool you: he is a ruthless, selfish businessman. Walk around New Orleans and you’ll see his name plastered numerous buildings such as “Benson Tower.” Let’s forget the “Mercedes Benz Superdome.” (Guess what type of auto dealership he owns.) He owns the Pelican’ts and the Saints and once owned the Arena’s Voodoo, too. And any Saints fan who hasn’t jumped off the bandwagon can tell you that without Katrina, Benson would have moved the team to his beloved San Antonio (the Saints “coincidentally” played three “home” games there the year the Dome was destroyed). Kudos to all of your saving-face efforts, Tom, but you were once the most hated man in New Orleans. It’s amazing what a Super Bowl can do.

  20. Seriously, he gives the biggest donation in the history of the HoF and all you “haters” can do nothing but talking about post-Katrina and other nonsense?

    You guys must be the “glass is half-empty” type of folks.

    It takes all kinds…SMH.

  21. I absolutely despise those that want to bring negativity to a person making charitable donations…. I’m looking at you my “why didn’t he give it to a food bank” guy.

    1. You actually don’t know if Benson already gives to food banks.
    2. It’s not your money. Why are you criticizing how someone donates their money?
    3. Obviously the NFL is a big part of Benson’s life and he values this. I’ve read stories of him giving for various other causes he values. Try doing the same. Give what you can to a cause you believe in and stop criticizing others for giving.

  22. Would be happier if he gave the bigger amount to the players, but it’s still a nice chunk of change out of his pocket.

  23. “kimbo71006 says:
    Nov 24, 2014 10:04 AM
    Seriously, he gives the biggest donation in the history of the HoF and all you “haters” can do nothing but talking about post-Katrina and other nonsense?”

    Because like most uber wealthy, they think they can buy their way out of trouble and negative publicity. And you know what? Thanks to people like Kimbo, it works because the gullible just see dollar signs and let them get away with it. Don’t forget, Benson essentially forced New Orleans to pay for the stadium, while Benson, a multi billionaire put up very little money to renovate his palatial work place.

  24. Born and raised about 90 miles southwest of NOLA, I’ve been a avid saints fan my entire life, Yes the cowboy fan on here is right, 2005 was a tuff year for our community and pro football franchise, Mr. Benson did consider leaving and even strongarmed the state a little. I forgave him years ago, the man opened up his checkbook, brought the community a super bowl, contributed TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars to charities and organizations, and invested to bring the city back after “K”/ The man deserves a little more respect, from the cowboys handle fan on here.

    BTW Mr. Benson is worth 1/4 what Jerry Jones is worth, and WHAT has he done for your community.

  25. Canton is a town that is rusting away. So I am very appreciative of the gift Mr. Benson has given to the HOF. My hope is the governing bodies that legislate the area don’t screw this up!

  26. I always get a warm fuzzy feeling inside whenever a billionaire gives such a generous donation to another billion dollar entity. You feel that folks? the Christmas season is upon us.

  27. Having visited the Hall of Fame last year, I can tell you it is very impressive inside the building. The issue here is land. They built the thing in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It is really crammed in a small space, with houses right behind it.

    What really needs to happen is they need to move it. Relax Ohio, I’m not saying move it out of Canton. I’m just saying find a very large open area in Canton and move it there.

    I consider this place a national treasure, but it sure could use land for parking an expansion.

  28. @obithejedi – I was there in Tiger Stadium that day also…but I was among the 5000 fans that stuck around to the end of that sorry game. In fact, Benson was accosted by one fan as he was escorted out of the stadium, and that one fan was exercising the frustration that thousands of us felt after the storm, having lost everything..and then about to lose our beloved Saints. The real credit for saving the Saints goes to Paul Tagliabue, who almost singlehandedly compelled the Superdome Commission, the State legislature, and former governor Blanco to agree to Superdome renovation earmarked funding to accelerate the stadium repairs and save the franchise. Benson was simply another greedy owner who did what he was told as long as the final solution was for him to become even richer. This donation is simply to secure his NFL legacy…nothing more. New Orleans should erect a statue to Paul Tagliabue…and let Tom Benson pay the bill.

  29. Wow lets not help out people who need it, say give a multimillion dollar donation to food banks right before Thanksgiving, lets instead give millions from a billionaire to a multi-billion dollar entity and act like it was something really cool.


  30. So the $11 million is the kick back for the NFL (officials) looking the other way on the Favre beating in the NFC final.

  31. What a load of crap. Recognition is nice..if they didn’t put his name on the stadium, he wouldn’t have done it. If it’s so nice, and you’re acting so humble, why didn’t you tell them to not name the stadium after you?

    And you’re gonna tell me $1 million is enough to provide assistance and housing to former NFL players? That money will run out in no time, especially with 700+ million for that concussion lawsuit and there was talk about 700+ million wasn’t enough. Please. What garbage with $1 million. The $11 million should’ve went entirely to the former players. No one seemed to complain about the stadium needing improvements.

    And $11 million is a drop in the bucket. He’ll just write it off on his taxes, in some way, and make up the loss with off-shore accounts that don’t get taxed.

  32. Tom Benson didn’t stick the people of Louisiana with the Superdome renovations. They were paid for with FEMA money. FEMA money belonging to all the taxpayers in the United States.
    All I have to say about that is, THANKS, douche bags!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.