What Really Happened the Night Will Smith Died

How 2 football players came together for one fateful night on the streets of New Orleans
By Daniel Kay,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2016 6:05 PM CDT
Life, Death, and Football in New Orleans
In this Dec. 9, 2012, file photo, New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith appears before an NFL football game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford.   (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Sean Flynn at GQ has put together an extensive piece of reporting about the shooting that took the life of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith in April. Retired Saints are basically, well, saints in New Orleans, so by the morning after Smith's death on a Saturday night, his alleged killer Cardell Hayes “was tried and convicted before I got out of church Sunday morning," Hayes' lawyer complained. The fact that Cardell Hayes himself had been a promising youth football player who had failed to reach the NFL just added to the narrative.

The story painted by Flynn explores both men, the culture of football in New Orleans, and a fender-bender that went tragically wrong. The car accident that brought the two men together ended with Cardell shooting Smith after, Cardell says, Smith started reaching for his own gun. New Orleans is an open-carry state, and by his own account, Cardell acted in self-defense. But in a town where football is so central to the place's identity, the court of public opinion is heavily tilted toward the guy with the Super Bowl ring. The full piece at GQ is worth a read. (More New Orleans stories.)

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