Ravens' owner answers former player's call, donates to help rebuild Louisiana churches

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Columnist
Yahoo Sports
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson said <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/baltimore/" data-ylk="slk:Baltimore Ravens">Baltimore Ravens</a> owner Steve Bisciott, above, has pledged $100,000 to help rebuild three Louisiana churches destroyed by arson. (Getty Images)
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson said Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciott, above, has pledged $100,000 to help rebuild three Louisiana churches destroyed by arson. (Getty Images)

Three historically black churches in Louisiana were burned down in the span of 10 days beginning on March 26.

The devastating fire at Notre Dame in Paris caught the world’s attention earlier this week and has led to $1 billion in pledges to help rebuild the famed cathedral. Investigators believe that fire was an accident tied to renovations, but the Louisiana church fires were deliberately set, according to police, and until the last several days, had gotten little attention and few financial pledges.

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At least one former NFL player has tried to help, and one of his old bosses stepped up.

Benjamin Watson leads effort

A week ago, Benjamin Watson, who recently retired after a 14-year NFL career, posted his first tweet asking for donations for St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. He offered a link to a GoFundMe page as well as a post office box address.

Watson played four of his final five seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

He also had reached out to the leaders of the three congregations, offering his help.

“In speaking with these pastors I am in awe and inspired by their faith and courage, comforting their congregations and family members,” Watson told The Advocate newspaper in a text message.

“Through sadness and shock they spoke of forgiveness for the arsonist and grace for tomorrow. Most importantly, they spoke of being overwhelmed by support from people of goodwill and all religions from around the country. And they were humbled by what God has already done through this series of events.”

‘Steve Bisciotti called me Sunday’

When someone on Twitter noted that it was great to have Watson involved but discouraging that a “zillionaire” had not stepped forward to donate, the 38-year-old replied that at least one wealthy individual had stepped forward.

“Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti called me Sunday. He committed 100k,” Watson wrote. “Thankful for his willingness to help others.”

Watson spent the 2017 season with Baltimore.

Police have charged 21-year-old Holden Matthews, the son of a local sheriff’s deputy, with three counts of arson of a religious building. Matthews, who is white, may also be facing hate crime charges.

As of this writing, over $2 million has been donated through the GoFundMe page; others have offered in-kind donations, like helping with cleanup or installing plumbing during the rebuilding efforts.

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