I just came across this radio interview with Falcons owner Arthur Blank. There was one part where Blank was asked about being accessible to the media. As a media member, I found this interesting and I think fans will, too.
“That’s very much a part of our culture, is to be available, and frankly to be even more available when times are difficult,’’ Blank said. “It’s easy to be available when things are going great. Sometimes when you’re facing adversity, some folks go off and hide someplace. We don’t think that’s the best thing to do.”
Applause for Blank. There’s no doubt he is the NFC South’s most accessible owner. Nobody else is even close. Blank isn’t Jerry Jones or Daniel Snyder. In other words, he’s not constantly out there seeking attention, but he’s willing to be out front with the media and, in turn, his fans. Blank gets it when it comes to dealing with media and fans, and I give Falcons public relations guru Reggie Roberts and his staff a lot of credit for creating a very media-friendly environment.
It’s really not that way with the other NFC South owners. Carolina’s Jerry Richardson is by no means an unfriendly man. In fact, he’ll often stop on the practice field to talk with reporters. It’s off the record and just basic conversation, and Richardson treats media members as real people. But he just doesn’t like being in the spotlight. When I covered the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer, Richardson usually would agree to go on the record once a year, and usually it was at the spring owners meeting. He’d talk extensively about the state of his team. At the end, I’d always say something like, “See, it’s not that difficult’’. He’d laugh and say, “Yeah, but we won’t do it again until next year’’. It’s just the way he operates.
New Orleans owner Tom Benson has been a bit more visible since the Saints won the Super Bowl, but he’s never been the type to hold court with the media. His granddaughter Rita LeBlanc, who seems to be gaining more and more power in the operation of the franchise, is more media friendly and has become the face of the franchise, from an ownership perspective.
Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer used to be called a recluse, and I don’t think that was inaccurate. In fact, I can only remember him speaking twice in the early years of his ownership when I was covering the Bucs for The Tampa Tribune. I believe once was when he officially bought the team, and the other time was when the Bucs signed Warren Sapp to a huge contract extension. Glazer is not in great health these days, and sons Bryan, Joel, and Ed are running the team. They take a lot of heat locally for not being very media friendly. But I don’t think that label is entirely accurate. The Glazers might not be outgoing personalities, but they know every reporter in their market by name and they’ll make small talk when they run into media members. They also have taken the Richardson approach at times and done some state-of-the-union addresses at league meetings. There also is a new effort inside One Buccaneer Place to make the Glazers more visible, and we’ve seen some evidence of that with the brothers playing big roles in Derrick Brooks’ retirement ceremony and the announcement that John McKay will join the team’s Ring of Honor. Look for that to continue, but don’t ever expect the Glazers to become like Blank.