Guest editorial: From The Advocate
Fans of the New Orleans Saints were famously noisy on Sunday as the team squared off at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the NFC championship against the Los Angeles Rams for a chance to compete in this year’s Super Bowl.
Although the game concluded days ago with a 26-23 loss to the Rams, members of Who Dat Nation remain as vocal as ever, angry about the failure of NFL officials to penalize Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman for pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact after he broke up a pass to Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.
Robey-Coleman’s actions were caught on video for the world to see, and both he and Lewis said later that they fully expected the referees to penalize the Rams.
The refs did nothing, though, and their decision — or indecision — deprived the Saints of a shot at the Lombardi Trophy next month.
Amid the continuing furor, though, there’s been a curious silence from the person in the best position to address this injustice — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell’s reticence isn’t serving the league’s interests, nor the broader cause of public accountability. There’s more at stake here, after all, than the disappointment of a New Orleans franchise denied its chance to compete for football’s top prize.
Something else was lost on Sunday in the Superdome. The greater defeat was the colossal blow to the NFL’s credibility. Officials charged with ensuring what Saints owner Gayle Benson called “a fair and equitable playing field” failed to do their job at a critical turning point, their lapse preserved in the annals of incompetence thanks to the perpetuity of video.
NFL rules don’t currently allow the failure to call a penalty to be challenged through a review of the footage.
League rules might allow Goodell some extraordinary remedies, like ordering a portion – or even the entirety – of Sunday’s game to be repeated.
While those possibilities seem remote to say the least, Goodell does have an obligation to speak to the NFL’s vivid failure to advance its professed standards of fairness and outline what he plans to do about it.
Goodell has done his share of chest-beating over the years about the need to preserve the league’s integrity. That was his rationale for suspending Saints coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season in the wake of allegations regarding a bounty program that encouraged violent play.
If Goodell harbors similar outrage over Sunday’s Debacle in the Dome, he’s kept it to himself. Payton has reported that the league told him that referees blew the call, but Goodell has not even confirmed that much.
In a nation where politics is too often jaded and situational ethics abound, football fans often look to the gridiron to see what clarity of purpose looks like.
What happened on Sunday seemed like just another exercise in cynicism in a country that’s weary of it. Those who cherish the game deserve better.