Hearing today in federal case over Saints loss in NFC Championship

Chris Miller
January 28, 2019 - 6:14 am

A local lawyer is seeking an expedited hearing in federal court as his clients try and get NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to invoke a rule allowing Goodell nullify the results of the NFC Championship Game and order a rematch between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams.

NFL Rule 17 says, "The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any... calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game."

Based on that, attorney Frank D’Amico Jr. says Goodell should have to order the game be replayed from the point at which the officials failed to call a pass interference and helmet to helmet hit that Saints Coach Sean Payton says the NFL head of officiating already admitted should have been called.

"The defensive back, Nickell Robey-Coleman, was fined by the NFL for the deliberate helmet-to-helmet hit," the New Orleans based lawyer said. "The commissioner now, under rule 17, is compelled to make a determination as to whether or not that act was so unfair or extraordinary that it impacted the outcome of the game."

What about Article 2 of Rule 17?  It says, "The Commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed." 

D’Amico says the key there is the part where it says "complaints by clubs."

"There is no prohibition for ticket holder filing," he insisted. "That prohibition refers to the teams... it doesn't say anything about fans or ticket holders."

Legal analyst Doug Sunseri doesn't think it has much of a hope.

"There's really no legal basis to it," Sunseri said. 

Sunseri said his reading of the rule is that Rule 17 is completely discretionary and it does not compel the commissioner to do anything.

"There is no mandatory or legal requirement that he invoke it under any circumstances," he said.

In a response to the initial filing, the NFL said replaying the game now would only delay the Super Bowl and cost the league and others involved untold amounts of money. They also sought to move the case to federal court, due to the monetary damages exceeding five million dollars.

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