Foul Play

This year, I again have the privilege of helping coach my 8th grade son’s basketball team.  The boys are learning a lot and giving it their all.  But during just about every stoppage of play, one of the players complains about being fouled and the ref didn’t call it.

I say that referees are human beings, too, and we all make mistakes.  There are 10 players on the court at the same time and only two refs – they can’t see everything at once.  Getting fouled is part of the game and you have to learn to live with it and play through it.

I think it’s good advice for our young men, not just in basketball, but in life.  Folks in New Orleans, however, might disagree.  Instead of accepting a bad call by a ref, fans of the Saints go marching in to court.

After the Saints lost to the Rams in the NFC Championship game, Frank D’Amico, Jr., an attorney from Louisiana, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.  The suit, filed on behalf of Saints season ticket holders Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert, stems from a play in the closing minutes of the tied game when the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman “committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit” on the Saints’ Tommylee Lewis, but no flag was thrown.

Saints fans believe if the penalty had been called, the Saints would have had 1st and goal and could have run the clock out to kick a game-winning field goal.  Instead, the Saints kicked a field goal and left enough time on the clock for the Rams to kick one as well, forcing overtime.  The Rams went on to win and earn a trip to Super Bowl LIII to face the New England Patriots.

Rule 17 in the NFL rulebook prevents the Commissioner from taking action if a team complains about the officials’ judgments or routine errors. It says, “Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.”

However, the same rule does say the Commissioner can take “corrective measures” if a “calamity” occurs that he 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.”  The suit asserts the blown call rises to this level and that the NFL should be held “accountable for the blatant (mis)actions of its employees and maintaining the integrity of the NFL.”

According to a Facebook post on D’Amico’s firm’s page, the lawsuit was not “filed for financial reasons and compensation for damages.”  The post went on to say that they are filing a “petition for a Writ of Mandamus which seeks equitable relief and NOT monetary damages.”  According to the law firm, “Our plaintiffs and the entire fan base simply want Roger Goodell and the NFL to do the right thing in this situation, and if for whatever reason he refuses, we have set the wheels in motion to compel him to do so using the legal remedies afforded to us under the law.”

Pursuant to the NFL rulebook, they want Goodell to reschedule the game from the beginning, resume it from the moment of the missed call or reverse the game’s result.

On Monday, the case was moved to federal court to avoid home-field advantage for Louisiana residents.  U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan asked both sides to write briefs about whether the league ever invoked Rule 17 in the past.

To no one’s surprise, in a 17-page ruling, Morgan tossed out the Saints fans’ case, holding that ticket-holders and fans have no right to compel the NFL or Goodell to challenge the game’s outcome.  If the fans had prevailed, it would have opened the floodgates for fans to sue every time there’s a bad or missed call.  Which would be great for lawyers.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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