Blown Call Brings Class Action Against the NFL

NEW ORLEANS (CN) — New Orleans Saints season ticketholders filed a class action against the NFL on Tuesday, saying the blown pass-interference call that cost the Saints the NFC championship on Sunday cast doubt on the league’s “integrity and fairness.” And they say, three members of the officiating crew had previously been accused of “biased rulings on the field.”

Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman clocks New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis with 1:40 remaining in the NFC championship game in New Orleans on Sunday. The blown call immediately became one of the most notorious officiating goofs in NFL history. (AP photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The blown pass-interference call at the 7-yard line, with less than 1:40 left in the fourth quarter has been seen more than 1 million times on YouTube. In it, viewers can see Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slamming Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis in a helmet-to-helmet hit, knocking him out of bounds as the ball arrives on target.

There was no call of pass interference, though the videos, taken from various angles, show it as a textbook case of that infraction. A correct call would have given the Saints a first down at the 7-yard line.

Lead plaintiffs Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert sued on behalf of New Orleans Saint Season Ticket Holders, et al. The lead defendant is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell has the discretion, as commissioner, to investigate and take appropriate measures if it appears that any “extraordinarily unfair” circumstance distorts a game’s outcome, the plaintiffs lawsuit say.

In fact, under NFL Rule 17, Section2, Article 3, Goodell has the power to reverse the game’s result “either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.”

“The blatant infraction and deliberate act of Los Angeles Rams cornerback, Robey-Coleman was admitted by the player to avoid a touchdown by New Orleans Saints, wide receiver, Tommylee Lewis. The non-call of the actions of Robey-Coleman was later admitted by NFL officials to New Orleans Saints coach, Sean Payton, as a blunder. The impact of the non-call is egregious sand demands recourse,” the Saints fans say.

The complaint quotes Saints Coach Sean Payton asking whether there was ever “more obvious pass interference.”

“It’s frustrating, you know,” Payton said. The National Football League “blew the call, there were a lot of opportunities though. But that call makes it first end ten, we’re on our knee three plays, and it’s a game changing call. It’s where it’s at. It’s disappointing.”

Los Angeles Rams defensive back Robey-Coleman, “additionally applied an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver,” the complaint states. “Inexplicably, neither penalty was called. The scrutiny arising from the non-call has led to the appearance of foul play by the officiants: Todd Prukop, backup judge, is from Los Angeles, Gary Cavaletto, side judge, is from Los Angeles; Bill Vinovich, officiant, and his team, were the subject of a petition to be removed in the official capacity as referee in the NFC Championship game for previously alleged biased rulings on the field,” the complaint states.

“Whether or not the bias is intentional, there is too much evidence to demonstrate a pattern, and for a corporation as big as the NFL not to see the pattern is highly unlikely. The magnitude of this game is too large and the referees should be neutral and enforce the rules, plain and simple.”

It continues: “As a direct result of the said incident, plaintiffs herein, have been left bereft and with no faith in the National Football League for fairness despite the leagues own rules to correct such errors, along with emotional anguish, monetary loss for ticket holders, who purchased tickets with the presumption of integrity and fairness.”

Roger Goodell’s office did not reply to a telephone call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Plaintiff’s attorney Frank D’Amico Jr. seeks an immediate hearing on the matter, in Orleans Parish Court.

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