Saints fan who stole ball from Bengals fan says he wanted ball for his grandchild
The fan who became NFL Fan Public Enemy No. 1 over the weekend is more than taken aback at the firestorm caused by his actions during Sunday’s New Orleans Saints-Cincinnati Bengals game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and has explained his actions.
The Saints fan became an unintended Internet villain after he snatched a souvenir football tossed into the stands by Bengals receiver Jermanine Gresham that was meant for a Bengals fan.
Tony Williams, 70, a Saints season ticket holder since 1968, insists that he thought the ball was up for grabs and aggressively procured it, practically stealing it out of the hands of Bengals fan Christa Barrett, to give to his eight-year-old grandson, who also was in attendance.
I really wasn’t intending to hurt anyone, do anyone harm. My motive was to keep the football for my grandbaby,” Williams told WWL-TV, per an ESPN.com report. Williams also claims he had no idea Barrett was the intended recipient of the souvenir football.
Barrett concurred, telling WWL-TV she did not think Williams had any malicious or mean-spirited intentions.
“Honestly, I know the pictures looked a lot worse than it really was,” she said. “I think it was just think an honest fight for the ball and he got it before I did.
“It wasn’t like I got any bruises or anything like that.”
Williams claims he and his family feel like the real victims in the incident, saying that his grandson now is worried about being hurt over what occurred.
Williams added that if the ball had been intended for a child and not a grown woman, he would have given it up, adding that it was not his intent to cause such a ruckus.
“I didn’t want to upset no one, because I love the city and I love the Saints,” he said.
Barrett now says she’s glad Williams got the ball, especially after hearing why he wanted the ball so badly.
“I wouldn’t say disrespectful, just super-excited at the time, as excited as I was,” Barrett said.
In the end, everybody got what they wanted — albeit in Williams’ case, he got a lot more than he bargained for given the backlash — as Barrett was presented with a ball provided by a Saints representative later in the game.
Nice that the @Saints gave this @Bengals fan a ball after a Saints fan stole hers. She is Christa Barrett. #Classy pic.twitter.com/DQMA2w87gJ”
— Jen (@924Jen) November 16, 2014
“I think it was a great show of sportsmanship…and it was amazing that (the Saints) did that,” she said. “Everyone was on our side, saying to give (us ) the ball. The Saints fans were amazing and I wouldn’t expect anything less. I’ve lived here for a couple of months now and I think the Saints fans are great. We got a lot of support.”
(photo credit: AP/Bill Haber)