Angry Saints Fans Sue Over Controversial No-Call
In the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game, the New Orleans Saints were tied 20-20 with the Los Angeles Rams. The Saints were marching down the field and it appeared they were on the verge of scoring a touchdown and leaving the Rams with little to no time to respond. On a crucial third down, Saints quarterback Drew Brees dropped back and threw a pass near the five-yard line, on the right sideline, intended for Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis; however, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slammed into Lewis and the pass fell incomplete. Not only did it appear to be a textbook pass interference penalty, but also it appeared, at first glance, to be a helmet-to-helmet penalty; however, no penalty was called. Saints fans responded in a chorus of boos, the announcers seemed to be stunned, and the Saints were forced to settle for a Will Lutz 31-yard field goal, giving the Saints a 23-20 lead.
Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, chased the referee up and down the sidelines, screaming, and pleading for the referee to explain the call. The Saints ended up losing the NFC Championship game, and their chance to compete in the Super Bowl, after the Rams tied the game and went on to win in overtime. After the game, it became clear that the Saints and their fans were not going away quietly. After the game, Payton said, “I don’t know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call that … you know, that here it is, the NFC Championship Game. So, a tough one to swallow … We’ll probably never get over it.”
Some Saints fans decided to take their rage beyond words. On January 22, 2019, a group of Saints season ticket holders sued the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell with the goal of reversing the overtime playoff loss. According to the suit, Saints fans were “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 season ticket holders, who purchased tickets with the presumption of integrity and fairness.” The Saints season ticket holders requested that Roger Goodell use his power to replay the final 1 minute, 49 seconds of regulation of the NFC Championship Game.