NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he understands the disappointment among Saints fans over a missed penalty call that cost the New Orleans team an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl and he agrees that the issue should prompt further discussion about the league's rules, in a newly-released letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Goodell agrees that the obvious penalty should have been called, but he wrote in his letter to Edwards that NFL rules don't allow the commissioner to overturn the results of a game because of an officiating error and it would have been wrong for him to do so.
"That said, I agree that it is incumbent on us to review this issue closely to determine if there are changes in our rules or procedures that would prevent a similar occurrence in the future," he wrote. "While there will always be mistakes in any game played, coached and officiated by humans, we do not want officiating to be the topic of discussion after any game."
"I know that I speak for everyone in the NFL when I say that we treasure our relationship with New Orleans," Goodell added in the letter dated Feb. 6. He goes on to invite the governor to call to discuss the issue further.
Just days after the game, Edwards penned a letter to Goodell "on behalf of the people of Louisiana and New Orleans Saints fans all across the country" to express "deep disappointment" in the refs’ failure to call a flagrant penalty against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game in New Orleans on Jan. 20.
Thousands of Saints fans boycotted the Super Bowl match-up between the Rams and the New England Patriots in protest of how the call was handled, taking to the streets in elaborate costumes and holding alternative "Boycott Bowl" events.
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"The very least that any fan of the Saints, or any other team, should be able to expect from any game is that the result will be decided by the players on the field," Edwards wrote in the blistering letter to Goodell. "By missing the obvious, blatant and intentional penalty at the end of the game, the referees in Sunday's game undermined that expectation and unfortunately were allowed to determine the winner. The team deserved better. Saints fans deserved better. The city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana deserved better."
Edwards, an avid Saints fan, attended the controversial game.
“This is really just an unfortunate situation,” Edwards said during his monthly radio show. “It almost defies description. Words almost fail me for how significant this is.”
Edwards, in his letter to Goodell references Saints' owner Gayle Benson's vow to push for a rule change to give teams some recourse in these situations.
“They ought to call it the ‘Saints’ rule’,” Edwards said on the radio.
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