The National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell asked a federal court to toss a lawsuit over a crucial blown call in the National Football Conference championship game.
Even if New Orleans Saints season ticketholders and fans are understandably upset at the outcome of that game, they don’t have standing to sue over it, the defendants argued.
Late in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman made an apparently illegal hit on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, but the officials didn’t flag him. The Saints drive ended with a field goal, and the Rams went on to force overtime, win the game, and advance to the Super Bowl. After the game, Goodell acknowledged that the officials had made a mistake.
Two Saints fans sued the NFL in Louisiana state court, on behalf of a class of Saints season ticketholders and fans. The NFL successfully got the case moved to federal court.
The court previously denied the plaintiffs’ request for a writ of mandamus ordering Goodell to do something, though it wasn’t clear entirely what—the fans had at different points requested a reversal of the game’s result, a rescheduling of the game, a full investigation into the missed call, and to “compel [Goodell] to follow the NFL Rules.”
The NFL asked the court to toss the plaintiffs’ remaining claims for damages. Though fans’ and ticketholders’ "disappointment over the outcome of an athletic event is understandable, the law is clear and unequivocal that such disappointment in the officiating, administration, and result of the game does not manifest in any legally cognizable right to damages,” the league argued.
Ticketholders have a contractual right to enter the stadium and see the football game, but they don’t have the right to challenge the game’s administration or outcome, the NFL said. Allowing this kind of lawsuit could flood the courts with actions brought by disappointed sports fans, it added.
The case is Badeaux v. Goodell, E.D. La., No. 19-00566, motion to dismiss filed 2/12/19.