The New Orleans Saints are fighting an effort by lawyers for sexual abuse victims to make public hundreds of emails that, those lawyers allege, show how team executives provided public relations assistance to the local Roman Catholic diocese as it dealt with the fallout of a child sex abuse scandal.

“Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia,” the victims’ attorneys wrote in a court filing Jan. 17. “The Saints realize that if the documents at issue are made public, this professional sports organization also will be smearing itself.”

News of the legal battle was first reported Friday by the Associated Press, whose lawyers filed a motion supporting the release of the emails.

In a statement released Friday, the Saints acknowledged that team officials, including Greg Bensel, the team’s senior vice president of communications, helped the archdiocese in late 2018 when it was preparing for the release of a list of names of more than 50 former priests and church officials “credibly accused” of abuse. (Saints owner Gayle Benson is a friend of Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s.) But the team rejected the suggestion that it assisted in concealing information.

“The Archdiocese reached out to a number of community and civic minded leaders seeking counsel on handling the pending media attention that would come with the release of the clergy names in November of 2018,” the team said. “The advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted. The New Orleans Saints, Greg Bensel and Mrs. Gayle Benson were and remain offended, disappointed and repulsed by the actions of certain past clergy.”

The Saints said they have “no interest in concealing information from the press or public” and have asked the court to apply standard court rules regarding documents provided by the team.

“Until the documents are admitted into evidence at a public trial or hearing … the use of the documents should be limited to the parties to the case and their attorneys,” the team said.

The Saints provided the documents last year under the condition they would remain confidential, but lawyers for the victims have filed motions asking for them to be released.

The battle over the documents stems from a lawsuit filed by abuse victims against the diocese in civil district court in the Parish of Orleans over the handling of George Brignac, a longtime schoolteacher and deacon who was arrested in September on a charge of raping a preteen boy decades earlier.

A hearing in the case on issues including the Saints’ emails is scheduled for Jan. 31.