NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An attorney and New Orleans Saints fan said Monday he will go no further with his court fight against the NFL over game officials’ failure to call an obvious penalty at a crucial point in a January playoff game.
The no-call helped the Los Angeles Rams beat the Saints and advance to the Super Bowl.
Lawyer Antonio LeMon and three others sued, alleging fraud by the NFL. The case was dismissed Friday by Louisiana’s Supreme Court. A state judge and an appellate court had allowed the suit to proceed over NFL objections. And, for a time, it looked as though Commissioner Roger Goodell and three playoff game officials might have to submit to questions under oath.
“The Louisiana Supreme Court has now spoken,” LeMon said in a prepared statement Monday morning. “Consequently we, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, are ready to move on and respect the ruling of our State’s highest court.
LeMon nevertheless called Friday’s ruling disappointing.
“By this Supreme Court ruling, the only right given to the purchaser of an NFL ticket, at least in Louisiana, is to get a seat in the stadium,” his statement said. “Once in that seat, the NFL has a license to do whatever it wants to us little ticket-holders, even to commit fraud and deceptive consumer trade practices against us without any civil recourse.”
The NFL declined comment Monday.
Three other lawsuits over the no-call had already died in federal court. At the center of each of them: The lack of a pass interference or roughness penalty after a Rams player’s helmet-to-helmet hit on a Saints receiver with a pass on the way.
Among allegations in LeMon’s lawsuit are claims that fraud and “implicit or unconscious bias” on the part of game officials from the Los Angeles area led to the decision not to flag the penalty.
LeMon did succeed in getting some responses from the NFL to written queries before the state Supreme Court halted action in the case while it was pending. The league acknowledged that video shows that pass interference and unnecessary roughness penalties should have been called. But it also said officials who were in proper position at the time of the play saw it “in real-time at full speed” and did not see the penalties.
“It is for each of us who have viewed the “No Call” play to decide if the NFL and Commissioner Goodell are being truthful and whether these sworn responses are disturbing,” LeMon’s Monday statement said.
In April, NFL owners voted to next season allow pass interference calls and non-calls to be challenged by coaches and reviewed on replay by officials.
By KEVIN McGILL
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