New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson vowed Monday to “aggressively pursue” policy changes to NFL officiating after an egregious error cost her team a chance to play in Super Bowl LIII.
On Sunday, referee Bill Vinovich and the rest of his officiating crew missed an obvious pass interference penalty against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship. The non-call forced the Saints to settle for a field goal late in the fourth quarter and left plenty of time for the Rams to respond with a game-tying field goal before the end of regulation.
Los Angeles wound up winning the contest in overtime and the NFL admitted to the officiating gaffe after the game. The league does not allow penalties – or missed penalties – to be reviewed on the basis that those are judgment calls.
“Yesterday’s result is still difficult to accept for all of us. I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday’s game,” Benson wrote as part of a lengthy statement published on the team’s website. “Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans.
“No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday.”
Benson made it clear she would take action to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s botched proceedings.
“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again,” she wrote. “It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations – fairness and integrity.”
The NFL is reportedly prepared to discuss the possibility of making pass interference reviewable next season but hasn’t committed to changes to the replay system.