Judge Refuses to Order NFL to Replay Rams-Saints Championship Game

Saints fans won't get a writ of mandamus. The Super Bowl goes on.
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Not that there was much doubt from anyone but a few hopeful New Orleans Saints fans, but a federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid to force NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to order a replaying of the final minutes of the NFC championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Saints. The Super Bowl will go on.

The lawsuit was filed in Louisiana state court after the referees during the game missed pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact penalties that would have put the Saints in position to win the game. (Never mind missed calls going against the Rams both on the controversial play in question and earlier.)

The NFL then removed the lawsuit to federal court and warned that its investment of more than $100 million in the Super Bowl was at stake. Both the league and CBS can rest easy.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan rejected a bid to remand the case back to a state court. Even though the plaintiff ticket-holders attempted to explain they weren't seeking monetary damages, the judge notes this is a purported class action and that an affidavit attesting to no monetary damages isn't binding on absent class members. As a result, the judge accepts that the amount in controversy surpasses the $5 million threshold to establish federal jurisdiction.

But that's not all.

The plaintiffs wanted a writ of mandamus that would order Goodell to implement Rule 17 of the league's rules. This gives the commissioner the power to reverse a game's result or reschedule a game under certain circumstances. The plaintiffs even found one instance during a 2001 Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars game where Rule 17 was initiated after a referee concluded the game upon bottles thrown onto the field, only to be reversed by Goodell's predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. In court papers, the plaintiffs compared its bid for a writ to a stockholder who sues a corporation attempting to compel compliance with company bylaws.

"Plaintiffs argue the NFL, an unincorporated association, should be treated as a corporation and the bylaws of the NFL confer upon the Commissioner the same powers as an officer of a corporation," writes the judge in Thursday's decision. "The Court’s research revealed no case in which a Louisiana court issued a writ of mandamus to any entity or person not specifically listed in articles 3861 and 3864. The history of the Code of Civil Procedure articles governing the writ of mandamus also convinces the Court that the articles are meant to be strictly construed and not extended to cover any person or entity not specifically listed. ... If the legislature had intended to extend the applicability of the writ to unincorporated associations, it would have done so in 2017. Given that mandamus is 'subjected to close limitations,' and articles 3861 and 3864 do not include an unincorporated association, the Court will not adopt the expansive and unprecedented interpretation of Louisiana law urged by Plaintiffs."

That's pretty much "game over." Unless there's some sort of emergency appeal made where a higher authority finds another blown call.