Good news for those still steaming over the indefensible no-call that kept the Saints from this year’s Super Bowl. Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Nicole Sheppard on Monday said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and three referees will have to answer questions under oath about the blown call in this year’s NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. And just to rub salt in the wounds of Goodell and the refs, Sheppard’s ordering them to come to the belly of the beast, New Orleans, to testify in person in September.
Lest you think Sheppard’s some rogue judge enacting revenge on a league that done her team wrong, her ruling was unanimously upheld by the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The NFL can still appeal the call for depositions to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Self-proclaimed Saints super-fan and attorney Tony LeMon is bringing the suit. LeMon, whose home is littered with Saints memorabilia, says four of the seven officials working the NFC game were from the Los Angeles area. He hopes to prove fraud.
“We believe that some of the officials that were from the Los Angeles area; we believe we can introduce evidence that they had purposely not called a penalty. That’s based upon circumstantial evidence, but that is the way you prove intent even in a criminal case,” LeMon told WVUE-TV.
But NFL attorney Gladstone Jones says there’s no evidence of fraud, only evidence of disappointed fans.
Proving the refs blew the call intentionally because of their hometown will not be easy. Maybe LeMon’s hoping for a Jack Nicholson moment like in “A Few Good Men,” where Goodell breaks down on the stand under pressure and emotionally blurts out, “You want the truth. You can’t handle the truth! You’re damn right I ordered the no-call!”
But short of a Hollywood, Perry Mason-type confession from Goodell, blown calls happen all the time in sports. How is this one any different?
“I believe there is (fraud); the evidence will speak for itself. You can’t look into their brain, but you can look at circumstantial evidence,” LeMon said.
But what if every team sued after a ref made a mistake and got a call wrong? Why stop with football? Why not sue when a ball is called a strike in baseball? Or when a three-pointer is counted for two in basketball? Maybe teams should have a bevy of lawyers on the sidelines sniffing and seeking out any calls deemed actionable.
Referees could each have personal attorneys on hand in case they make a wrong call and find themselves served papers after the game.
Louisiana is the murder capital of the nation, and our auto insurance rates are thousands of dollars higher per year than many states. Louisiana has been described by pro-business groups as a judicial hellhole. Our courts are overcrowded, and many cases are plea-bargained down to lighter sentences. Now we’re using the courts to embarrass the NFL because a couple of refs blew a call?
Admittedly, NFL brass is hard to like these days, especially after they looked the other way as millionaire athletes disrespected our flag for several weeks while kneeling during the national anthem. It’s the same league that refused the Dallas Cowboys’ request to put a simple sticker on helmets honoring five police officers shot to death in their city while protecting Black Lives Matter protesters. It’s the same league that said nothing when former quarterback Colin Kaepernick wore socks during practice depicting police as pigs.
Saints fans may enjoy watching Goodell and the refs squirm trying to explain how they blew such an easy and obvious call. But that will be the end of it. This lawsuit is about one thing and one thing only — embarrassing and humiliating Goodell and the refs that blew the call. Regardless of how much Saints’ fans want to rub the noses of Goodell and the refs in it, this is hardly a good use of the limited resources of the state’s court system.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.