Falcons owner Arthur Blank's late mother inspired competitive fire — and dance moves

Tom Pelissero
USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank dances with players after the game against the Green Bay Packers in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta defeated Green Bay 44-21.

HOUSTON – If Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gets to break out his viral dance moves one more time after Super Bowl LI on Sunday, he hopes his late mother is watching somewhere.

Molly Blank passed away on Jan. 7, 2015, just shy of her 100th birthday.

“She was a great dancer,” Arthur Blank told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “The only thing I’m sad about Sunday is that she’s not going to be here with us. But I believe in my heart that she’s floating around up there someplace and looking down and clapping her hands and proud of her son and proud of our franchise.”

Blank, the 74-year-old billionaire co-founder of Home Depot who purchased the Falcons in 2002, got more than a few moves from mom.

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After her husband, Max, died when Arthur was 15, Molly Blank took over the family pharmaceutical business Max had started. “She not only didn’t let it die, but made it flourish and eventually sold it to a large company,” Blank said.

The entrepreneurial spirit of his parents was passed to Blank, who points to it as one possible source of the must-win mentality those around him speak about.

“He’s fiery and competitive in so many cool ways,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “I remember years and years ago when we would have some tough times and we would be talking at midnight or 1 in the morning about it postgame. He said, ‘This is why I have you here, so that we can vent on the same level as far as what our frustrations and agitations are about making sure that we can create the best team we can.’”

Said Blank: “That’s just kind of the way I’m wired. I don’t like to lose. And we didn’t come here to Houston to lose.”

He admits getting nerves for games, but he tries to control them – “partly because I think if not, you would go insane,” Blank said. He says he also wants to set the right example for his six children, his wife’s three and five grandchildren who are here this week.

He speaks of the Falcons’ soon-to-be-completed new home, the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as an “iconic” venue that has become more unique as construction has unfolded. “I’m not a good person at saying no to good ideas and keep getting good ideas and keep saying yes to them,” Blank said.

He’s careful to say he doesn’t want to make a statement about one political party or president, but Blank makes his point clear when asked about protests that could occur outside NRG Stadium on Sunday – speaking among other things about a nation that “became great by the diversity that represents the history of this country and everybody coming from all over the world to fulfill their visions and their dreams” and needs to create more opportunities for the middle class.

“I care deeply about those values,” said Blank, who is Jewish. “It’s what drives all our foundation work and all of our businesses. So, I want to continue to support people who look for answers that are embracing and are inclusive, and not building either physical walls or emotional walls or walls of language. That’s not what’s made our country great.”

Those values surely were influenced by his parents as well, and in particular his mother, who was “a great folk dancer, classical dancer, pop dancer,” Blank said. “All of the women in my family are great dancers – my daughters, wife.”

Blank’s dance moves are … well, unorthodox. But he hasn’t been shy about showing them off, whether it was doing Cam Newton’s “dab” after the Falcons upset the Carolina Panthers late last season or getting down with receiver Mohamed Sanu on stage after the NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers a couple weeks ago.

As long as the Falcons win, it seems, the spirit moves him.

“That’s just a dance of joy and emotion,” Blank said. “There’s not a lot of structure to it, but there is a lot of joy to it.”

Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero.

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