NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and 2019 NFC Championship game officials will no longer have to testify under oath after the Lousiana Supreme Court dismissed a New Orleans Saints fan’s lawsuit over the well-known “no-call” in the final minutes of the January contest.
Attorney and Saints superfan Antonio LeMon had filed a suit alleging fraud, unjust enrichment, and “detrimental reliance” over the three referees’ failure to flag a penalty for either helmet-to-helmet contact or pass interference on a Rams player's late-game hit on a Saints receiver in the 26-23 Rams win. LeMon sought just under $75,000 in damages, which he said he would donate to former Saints star Steve Gleason's charity if he won.
In July, a Louisiana district court judge ruled that Goodell and the game officials could be questioned under oath. The NFL appealed and even the Saints agreed, filing a brief on behalf of the league stating that allowing the lawsuit to proceed could send sports fandom down slippery slope.
“Such an outcome will be to the detriment of Louisiana sports teams at all levels, to their fans, and, more crucially, to the efficient functioning of the judiciary, which will soon find itself mired in disputes that it lacks the time or expertise to resolve,” the NFL wrote.
Further, the NFL owners acknowledged issues with non-calls and voted over the offseason to make pass interference calls reviewable plays, so change has already been enacted.
The higher court’s ruling was based on a previous precedent which, in part, stated that tickets give fans access to a “place of public amusement" to only witness a game.
"Applying this reasoning to the case at bar, we find plaintiffs' purchase of a ticket merely granted them the right of entry and a seat at the game," the ruling said, according to USA Today. "Plaintiffs have not alleged that these rights were revoked or denied in any way."
None of the seven court members dissented to the decision to reverse the lower court's ruling.
The court went on to acknowledge and appreciate the passion of New Orleans sports fans, but note that the judicial system was not the proper place to solve sports-related disputes. A true win for us all.
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