Only a Super Bowl victory parade could upstage Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Carnival floats carrying Saints players, coaches and team owner Tom Benson rolled past tens of thousands of jubilant fans in downtown New Orleans on Tuesday, two days after the 43-year-old franchise won its first NFL championship.
Players, wearing team jerseys instead of traditional Carnival masks and costumes, tossed beads into the crowd and signed autographs for throngs of screaming fans. Benson shouted “Who Dat!” into a microphone from his perch atop a float. Head coach Sean Payton blew kisses and held the Lombardi Trophy over his head.
“Here’s to the best Mardi Gras week in the history of this city,” Payton said, raising a glass of champagne during a toast outside the city’s historic Gallier Hall.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The parade, a week before the city’s signature Fat Tuesday celebration, started outside their home turf at the Louisiana Superdome. Black, gold and white confetti floated over the crowd and a man wearing a Saints jacket held aloft a sign that read, “Happy Lombardi Gras!”
Ten Carnival krewes lent floats for the team to ride. More than a dozen marching bands joined the team on its route, which passed by the edge of the French Quarter and ended at the city’s convention center.
“This is wilder than Mardi Gras,” said Frank V. Smith, 55, a lifelong New Orleans resident who shot photographs of players from the rear of a pickup truck. “I’ve never seen so many people out here like this. This is beautiful, man.”
Julius Peppers no longer wants a long-term contract with Carolina, saying the Panthers have ignored him this offseason. In an interview aired Tuesday morning on Charlotte radio station WFNZ-AM, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end indicated he’s irritated by the team’s “silence.” … St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson won’t face criminal charges over allegations that he beat a girlfriend who was nine months pregnant with the couple’s child at his Las Vegas home last year, a police spokeswoman said. Investigators found insufficient evidence that Jackson, 26, attacked Supriya Harris of Mableton, Ga., in March 2009, Las Vegas police said. … Nevada casinos won almost $6.9 million on this year’s Super Bowl as bettors wagered $82.7 million on the NFL title game, gambling regulators said. The Nevada Gaming Control Board said the win was $179,000 more than sports books won last year, on $1.21 million more in bets. …The White Stripes say the Air Force Reserve used their song “Fell in Love With a Girl” without permission in a Super Bowl ad, and they are insulted the song was used to encourage recruitment during a war they don’t support.