NEW ORLEANS — A courtroom quest by two New Orleans Saints ticketholders for a full or partial do-over of this year’s NFC championship game because of a blown “no-call” by game officials was rejected Thursday by a federal judge.
NFL officials have acknowledged that flags should have been thrown when a Rams defensive back leveled a Saints receiver with a helmet-to-helmet hit at a crucial point in the final minutes of regulation time. The Rams won the Jan. 20 conference championship in overtime and are set to play the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Fan reaction in New Orleans has included disbelief, anger and resignation, expressed in newspaper headlines, billboards (“They reffed up” said one), promises by some restaurants and bars that they won’t show the Super Bowl broadcast, and posters of blind referees.
And at least two lawsuits. One was a class-action lawsuit on behalf of ticketholders that was awaiting action in state court.
The other was filed by season ticketholders Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert two days after the game. It sought a court order forcing the NFL to implement a rule allowing Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate “extraordinarily unfair acts” that affect the game. Remedies under that rule include rescheduling the game in full, or from the point at which the unfair act occurred.
It was not immediately clear if U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan’s ruling against Badeaux and Lambert would be appealed. Their lawyer, Frank D’Amico, said in an email he would have a statement later Thursday. The NFL did not immediately respond to an emailed request for reaction.
Morgan rejected arguments that Badeaux and Lambert were entitled to an order, known as a “writ of mandamus,” forcing the NFL or Goodell to take action.
“None of the actions Plaintiffs might seek to compel Commissioner Goodell to do are the kinds of actions a writ of mandamus may address,” Morgan said in a 17-page ruling in which she detailed the extraordinary circumstances in which Louisiana law allows a writ of mandamus to be issued.
In the same ruling, she also rejected arguments that the case should be heard in state court in New Orleans, where it was originally filed. She said the suit was, in effect, a class-action lawsuit seeking relief for all ticketholders and Saints fans, involving defendants outside of Louisiana and amounts of money that all make it appropriate for federal court.