By LIBBY BIRK
After an NFL referee missed an apparent pass interference penalty call during Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams, several Saints season ticket holders are suing NFL commissioner Roger Goddell.
New Orleans plaintiff attorney Frank J. D’Amico, Jr. says he has been approached by several season ticket holders to take legal action against Goodell after the missed call resulted in the Saints having to punt the ball and hand over possession to the Rams, who ultimately scored and won the game in overtime.
WDSU reporter Travers Mackel reports that in a statement, D’Amico, Jr. said he will seek to force Gooddell to enact Rule 17 of the NFL rule book, a statute which allows the commissioner to reverse the result of a contest if an “unfair act” played a part in the final score of the game.
“There’s language in the rule book that could, in the right circumstances, allow the commissioner to take extreme action in the face of a grossly unfair result,” the statement reads.
D’Amico, on behalf of ticket holders Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert and the “Saints national fan base,” asks Gooddell to consider Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1: “The commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club actions, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in a NFL game which the commissioner deems so extraordinary unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”
Under Rule 17, Article 3, D’Amico quotes that “The commissioner’s powers under this Section 2 include… the reversal [of] a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.”
However, 247 Sports reports that Article 2 also states that “The commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials,” which makes it highly unlikely Gooddell would take action toward adjusting the final score of the game.
While technically, he has the power to set back time, giving the Saints first and goal at the spot of the penalty with 1:49 back on the game clock with a tie score at 20-20, the “extraordinary unfair” act described in the rulebook is reserved for something like fan interference — not an official missing a call.
During the play in question, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman appeared guilty of pass interference on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis when he struck Lewis in the helmet before the intended pass from Drew Brees arrived. The collision sent Lewis into the air and social media into a tizzy after two referees who were watching the play did not throw penalty flags.
Among the damages claimed in the lawsuit are: past, present and future mental anguish and emotional trauma; loss in faith in the NFL; loss of enjoyment of life; and “distrust of the game which has become the National pastime.”
The five-page filing does not set a dollar figure for the alleged damages.
Barring any official game change from Gooddell, the Rams will take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, which will air live on CBS from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, Feb. 3.