The NFL’s New Orleans Saints are taking legal action to conceal hundreds of emails allegedly showing team executives helping the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese contain the fall-out from a burgeoning sexual abuse crisis.
Lawyers for some two dozen men suing the church say in court filings that the 276 documents they obtained under discovery laws show the NFL team, whose owner is devoutly Catholic, aided the Archdiocese of New Orleans in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes”.
“Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in paedophilia,” the lawyers wrote in a court filing.
“The Saints realise that if the documents at issue are made public, this professional sports organisation also will be smearing itself.”
The Saints organisation and its lawyers emphatically disputed any suggestion the team helped the church cover up crimes.
In a statement on Friday, the club said the archdiocese sought its advice on how to handle media attention that would come from its 2018 release of a list of more than 50 clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.
“The advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted,” the team said.
The team added it had “no interest in concealing information from the press or public” and that it “merely requested the court to apply the normal rules of civil discovery”.
However, lawyers for the Saints argued in court papers this month that the 2018-19 emails were intended to be private and should not be “fodder for the public”.
The archdiocese is also fighting the release of the emails.