Following a guilty manslaughter verdict for Cardell Hayes in last week’s high-profile trial, several current Saints players weighed in with their take. After all, from Drew Brees and Sean Payton to former players like Deuce McAllister and Fred McAfee, the black and gold presence was a constant in the courtroom.
Saints safety Roman Harper was close friend of Will Smith and attended part of the trial.
“There’s no true winner in this thing,” says Harper. “At the end of the day, when I was in that courtroom, I felt empathy for the Hayes family. I look across the courtroom and see some of my family members or people that look just like me in this unfortunate situation. Now you look up and you have two lives whose two families have been changed completely because of this whole deal. It's just sad that cooler heads didn't prevail.”
There’s also a cry for social change within the New Orleans area.
“We need to look at ourselves as a city and as a people,” says Harper. “What are we really, truly doing? Recognize that this is going on every day. It’s not getting all of the media attention that this case is getting, but we should use this as an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, look. We need to be better as a people and as a community and as a city, and let’s be smart about these things.’”
“Sometimes it takes a bigger event like this where all of a sudden where all eyes are focused on it,” says Saints right tackle Zach Strief. “The sad part is this happens every day and there's no coverage. You turn on the news here, and there's been four shootings, and you don't think twice about it. That's just the reality of it. Hopefully, something like this will change that.”