'Free Sean Payton' movement picks up among Saints fans

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 21, 2012 at 10:12 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 22 at 2:27 AM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- From euphoria after their 2009 Superbowl victory to disappointment in the thick of bounty gate, what happens to the Saints is felt throughout New Orleans.

Wednesday was particularly hard for Who Dats, with news head coach Sean Payton is being suspended for a year in light of the Saints' three-year pay-for-performance bounty system.

"Disgust. Shame. It had to happen in New Orleans," said Saints fan Jay Kuiros. "It probably goes on with all the teams. We just happened to be the one that got caught."

"It's terrible," said Saints fan John Lemur. "I think it's very, very drastic. I think we're definitely being penalized too hard."

The "Free Sean Payton" movement is already becoming a cultural phenomenon. Dirty Coast has sold hundreds of t-shirts with that message, printed hours after news broke of Payton's year-long suspension. Fleurty Girl is also selling shirts with the same message.

"There's definitely been a lot of anger and also solidarity of everyone kind of in defiance of this can't happen, there's no way this can happen," said Blake Haney, creative director of Dirty Coast.

The Twitterverse is exploding with comments about Payton's suspension. It's one way of coping with bad news, said psychologists.

"You're going to hear a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, a lot of lashing out," said Amy Dickson, Psy. D, clinical psychologist at LSUHSC. "There's a lot of disbelief. I think there's a lot of why us, why are they picking on the Saints?'

Who Dats make such a serious commitment to supporting the team, they feel they're part of it, said Dickson.

"This feels like an attack on the whole city, not just the Saints players," said Dickson.

"To say this is disturbing would probably be an understatement," said WWL Sports Talk co-host Deke Bellavia at the start of Wednesday's radio show.

Co-hosts Bobby Hebert and Bellavia fielded calls Wednesday afternoon from shocked Who Dats still reeling from last season's failed run at the Superbowl, and who now believe a Superbowl run this season at home could take a miracle.

"After Katrina the Saints were the great feel-good story," said Hebert of the national perception on the Saints. "Now you're no longer the feel-good story. You're more like a band of bandits."

"You're not going to keep a Saints fan down," said Lemur. "We've got to keep rallying around our team. I know they're going to pull together and work even harder this year because of everything, all the adversity they have to face."

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