Goodell argues referee’s decisions ‘are final’ in no-call lawsuit filing

In the brief, Roger Goodell writes that the NFL does not dispute that penalties mistakenly not called late in the NFC Championship game.

Goodell argues referee’s decisions ‘are final’ in no-call lawsuit filing

Author: Kevin Dupuy

Published: 9:22 AM CST January 28, 2019

Updated: 9:56 PM CST January 28, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — There's no resolution yet in a lawsuit on the 'NOLA No call' in the Saints' NFC championship loss.

However, the case has led to Roger Goodell breaking his silence on the matter, in a way.

The NFL Commissioner filed a legal brief Sunday asking the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana to dismiss a lawsuit by New Orleans Saints season ticket holders following the NFC Championship game

A federal judge heard arguments Monday in the longshot-lawsuit seeking a possible do-over of the title game that ended with a Los Angeles Rams victory over the Saints after officials failed to call a late-game penalty.

RELATED: 5 of the most controversial NFL officiating calls

The lawsuit by two Saints season ticket holders, Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert, says 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, NFL lawyers and Goodell argue that overruling a referee on the field does not fall within the NFL Commissioner's discretion. They point to Rule 15, Section 1, Article 3 which says the following:

“The Referee’s decisions upon all matters not specifically placed under the jurisdiction of other officials by rule are final.”

The NFL argues that because of Rule 15′s finality, then Rule 17 cannot be applied.

RELATED: Legal experts: Saints fans' no-call lawsuit is a 'waste of time'

The NFL also acknowledges that one or more penalties for pass interference or illegal helmet-to-helmet were not called late in the game. Separately, the court filing confirmed that NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron admitted to Saints head coach Sean Payton after the game that both penalties should have been called on the play.

"Because the officials on the field are humans, like the players and coaches, errors will happen," the brief argues.

“2019 will mark the NFL’s centennial season. Throughout that time, one constant is that the results of a game are conclusive and not subject to protest or challenge,” the documents say. “To our knowledge, no game has ever been replayed. This has been true despite war, depression, natural disasters, civil disorder, terrorism, or pandemic. And it has certainly been true notwithstanding errors in the enforcement of playing rules or even the deliberate evasion of those rules.”

The brief also argues that ticketholders or fans do not have the rights to ask a court to order the commissioner to act on an officiating omission.

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.

Monday's hearings ended when Morgan told both sides to file more motions.

Last week, the NFL said in a separate court filing that redoing the NFC title game would mean a pricey delay of the upcoming Super Bowl.

NFL Chief Financial Officer Joseph Siclare said replaying even a few minutes of the NFC championship game because of a missed passed interference call would force a delay for an event that demands an investment of "more than $100 million," the New Orleans Advocate reported.

While the NFL has remained publicly silent about the controversial no-call, the league said Friday it had fined Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman $26,739 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis — a second infraction that went unflagged on the same play.

The Associated Press reporter Kevin McGill contributed to this report.

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