Falcons explain stance on Gleason statue

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There are two sides to every story and we’ve only heard the New Orleans Saints’ version of what has sparked controversy about the “Rebirth’’ statue that was unveiled outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last week.

The statue depicts Steve Gleason’s legendary punt block against the Atlanta Falcons in the first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the Falcons had refused to allow the Saints and the statue’s sculptor to use their logo in the statue. The other figure in the statue is former Atlanta punter Michael Koenen. But the statue contains none of the Falcons’ trademarks.

Falcons president Rich McKay just explained the Falcons’ side of things and said this was not a case of spiting a division rival. There were other issues involved, McKay said.

“The first thing that happens in a request for marks is that it has to go to the league because we don’t own the marks,’’ McKay told ESPN.com. “The league does for anything outside of our market. When they brought it to us, we discussed it with them and we came to the conclusion that, obviously the fact they're honoring the moment is fantastic. We were all there. It was an incredible moment for the city. It was not something that we wanted to memorialize the game. So we kind of looked at it as though we didn’t want necessarily a statue in front of the building that had our marks. Albeit, we all understand how important the moment was for the city and what they had gone through. 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.’’

McKay said he received a letter from the league months ago and a decision was made quickly. The initial report said the Saints tried to appeal to Falcons owner Arthur Blank for permission to use the logo. McKay said Blank was not involved in the process. McKay said after the decision was made he never heard another word about the statue until the report came out last week.

“We never intended to offend the New Orleans fans and we certainly didn’t intend to make light of the moment, which was truly special,’’ McKay said.