Probably not. Bad calls are a way of life in the NFL, and sports in general. Miami is still lamenting a bad call from the 2002 national title game that helped catapult Ohio State to the national title that year.
But lawsuits over bad sports calls are not unprecedented. A high school once filed a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to have a bad call vacated. That high school claimed they had scored a touchdown on the game’s last play thereby winning the state championship. The video replays tended to support the school’s position that the referee blew the call at the goal line and therefore cost that school the state championship. The court, however, refused to change the call. The court noted, among other things, that the video, while tending to support the bad call, was not conclusive to permit the call to be overturned.
In the Saints’ situation, however, it is undisputed that the officials blew the call. The Saints have an admission from the NFL that the call was blown. They have overwhelming video evidence supporting that position too. The Saints also have access to countless “experts” who could provide testimony about the call to help advance their position that the Rams should be stopped from playing in the Super Bowl.
The NFL rules actually contemplate a situation where a game, such as the NFC Championship game, could be replayed. The NFL rules provide a mechanism to permit a team to challenge the results of a game. In addition, the NFL rules also empower and permit the commissioner to require teams to play a game again, or play the game from the point the erroneous call was made, or to even change the outcome of the game, in “extraordinarily unfair” instances.
Of course, the commissioner won’t invoke any of those rules or do anything to prevent the Rams from facing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. To do so would be a public relations nightmare, the likes of which the NFL has never witnessed.
Therefore, the Saints seem to have a “good case” for a judge to at least consider blocking the Rams from advancing to the Super Bowl since the commissioner won’t take any action on the issue. The Saints can rely on the NFL rule that permits games to be replayed in situations like this, given the overwhelming video evidence, and “expert” testimony, regarding the blown call at such a critical moment in the game.
This means that the Saints could file a lawsuit seeking judicial intervention to force the commissioner to follow the rules and have a temporary restraining order issued, stopping the Rams from advancing to the Super Bowl, for now. Or, the Saints could ask that the final few minutes of the NFC championship game be replayed based on the NFL rules that grant the commissioner the authority to order the game replayed given the “overwhelming” video evidence, and “expert” testimony, that the NFL officials blew it in the game. Put another way, there does not appear to be a factual dispute that the call was blown. Plus, the Saints would have no other adequate remedy to correct the wrong call.
But that lawsuit won’t help the Saints’ cause to get to the Super Bowl. As noted above, while lawsuits seeking to have bad calls overturned is not unprecedented, our judiciary system typically tries to let our sporting events play out on the field.
Moreover, and much like the commissioner would face a PR disaster if he altered the game’s results in any way, the Saints too would face a PR problem of their own if they used the judiciary to help them advance to the Super Bowl after they lost the NFC Championship game to the Rams.
Of course, bad calls happen in the business world too. There are plenty of instances where circumstances demand the issuance of a restraining order or temporary injunction. Temporary restraining orders and injunctions are both powerful weapons that individuals and businesses have available to them to correct a wrong.
Clients have often come to me with tough cases that appear to present no-win scenarios. But as my college coaches always taught me, preparation and creative thinking are necessary tools to turn a tough situation into a positive. Litigation can be expensive and time consuming, but it can also present opportunities, as well as the necessary forum to right a wrong. In some instances, the nature of the wrong, such as the Saints being prevented from advancing to the Super Bowl, or a business facing competition from a former employee in violation of a non-compete agreement, compels the necessity of the filing of a lawsuit. Call me today if you wish to discuss the NFC Championship game further, or the upcoming Super Bowl, or if you wish to discuss some legal issue impacting you or your business.