NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge was set to hear arguments Monday in a longshot-lawsuit seeking a possible do-over of the NFC championship game that ended with a Los Angeles Rams victory over the New Orleans Saints after officials failed to call a late-game penalty.
At issue is the failure of officials to call interference or roughness penalties when a Rams player leveled a Saints receiver with a helmet-to-helmet hit at a crucial point in the in the final minutes of regulation time. The Rams won the Jan. 20 game in overtime and are set to play the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The lawsuit by two Saints season ticket holders, Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert, says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should implement a league rule — rule 17 — governing “extraordinarily unfair acts.” Remedies include reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game — in its entirety or from the point when the act occurred.
It is one of two lawsuits filed over the “no-call.” The other, still pending in state court, is a class action suit seeking unspecified damages for season-ticket holders.
In a response filed Sunday to the suit by Badeaux and Lambert, the NFL’s lawyers say Rule 17 does not apply.
“The NFL parties do not dispute that they have previously advised the Saints, including the club’s head coach, that one or more penalties — for pass interference or illegal helmet-to-helmet contact — were mistakenly not called late in the NFC Championship Game, and that the NFL would like its officials on the field to make these calls,” the document says.
But it also says Goodell, a defendant in the suit along with the league itself, does not have the authority to overrule a referee on the field. Even if the rule did apply, the NFL attorneys argue, a decision on a remedy is up to the commissioner, not a ticket-holder.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan is presiding over the federal suit. Records show she got the case after it was initially assigned to Judge Barry Ashe — who removed himself from the case because he has Saints season tickets.