NO LOVE FOR NOLA: Bad Relationship Between Saints and NFL Will Get Worse in 2019

Just in case you missed it, the National Football League in its infinite wisdom appeared to disrespect the New Orleans Saints once again yesterday (perhaps unintentionally but one has to wonder). The League’s Competition Committee decided not to make any changes to its rules regarding instant replay and more specifically, any non-calls made by NFL referees, at least for now.

As noted by several reporters on-hand in Indianapolis during yesterday’s meeting, the League and the Committee — which ironically Saints head coach Sean Payton himself is actually a member of — will explore the possibility of revisiting the rule and consider making any changes of significance at a later date.

There was no word on whether or not Payton addressed the Committee, or whether or not it was ever brought up for serious conversation among his fellow seven members (Chairman and Falcons President Rich McKay, Giants owner John Mara, Cowboys co-owner Stephen Jones, Packers president Mark Murphy, former Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, and Broncos GM John Elway).

Not surprisingly, it was the very same rule that the League and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had promised to consider changing after the Black and Gold got robbed of a Super Bowl appearance in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Los Angeles Rams last month. The decision followed the much-discussed and now-infamous pass interference and helmet-to-helmet hit “no-calls” that should have been called penalties, by Rams DB Nickell Robey-Coleman against Saints WR Tommylee Lewis.

Instead of taking up the issue of the controversial play and its after-effects that essentially ripped the hearts out of an entire fan-base, members of the Committee opted instead to take into consideration things such as banning players from leaving their team’s bench on the sidelines to go and celebrate with their teammate(s) after scoring a touchdown.

Oh boy, that’s a real critical issue that they chose to address right there. Are they serious?

When you have as bad of an image problem as the NFL does at the moment, it would seem that perhaps the League would have been better served to address the most significant controversy that hangs over the sport like a dark black cloud. Namely, that officiating debacle at the Superdome a few weeks back that essentially robbed an entire team and its fanbase of a legitimate shot at winning a World Championship.

Hysterically, the person that runs the Saints team Twitter account was quick to throw some “shade” at the League for their blatant hypocrisy and apparent incompetence, with this brilliant Tweet right after word had spread about the Competition Committee’s ignoring the replay issue for now and addressing other issues of far less importance.

One notable thing about that Tweet is that there now appears to be a growing contentious relationship between the League and the Saints franchise, a relationship that over the past several years has seen some obvious discourse between the two sides following the BountyGate controversy back in 2012.

It was before that 2012 Season that the League punished the team and handed down a series of suspensions for the Black and Gold’s supposed illegal “bounty” program; in which it was said (or alleged) that Saints defensive players were intentionally trying to injure players from other teams for money.

The League was never able to prove that the Saints were, in fact, guilty of any transgressions, and while eventually both sides moved past that controversy and seemed to be on friendlier terms in recent years, the League’s complete bumbling of the NFC Championship Game no-call appears to have re-opened some of those old wounds.

As it turns out, that’s not the only issue with their now-tarnished image that the NFL has to worry about.

Photo by Zennie Abraham

The League’s handling of the entire no-call issue has also led to a huge ground-swell of pushback by passionate and angry Who Dat fans; many of them whom still feel that the League has an unspoken hidden agenda to do harm to the Saints franchise.

While I personally don’t subscribe to such wild conspiracy theories, it’s an indisputable fact that whether it was meant to be intentional or not, the Saints franchise (especially in the eyes of long-time fans) has now gotten “screwed” by the League in two very notable instances within the past several years.

However, as a consequence, that’s also caused some negative feedback from fans and even some national analysts that cover other NFL teams. Many have labeled the entire Who Dat Nation/Saints fanbase as “whiners” and “criers” for their constant complaints about how that game eventually turned out.

The relationship between the team and the League was always strained at best following BountyGate, and their handling of this issue only threatens to make it considerably worse.

It’s pretty evident that the Saints team, its fanbase, and even the city of New Orleans and the surrounding region now all have a big-time chip on their shoulders because of this entire ordeal. Not so much because of the end result of the game itself, but more so about how the League failed to respond initially and their ultimate handling of the entire incident.

Photo by Chris Taylor, JRNOLA

The NFL’s willful dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility to clean up its own self-inflicted mess, has only fueled the fire and aroused the anger of not only the Saints organization itself but also for an overwhelming majority of Saints fans; and that should make for some exciting and probably contentious times in the upcoming months ahead.

The perception (whether it’s an accurate one or not) is that the NFL hates the Saints franchise, and clearly, the feeling on the other side of that equation has definitely become mutual, especially in recent weeks.

Yesterday’s failure by the League to address the controversial no-call/instant replay issue only added more bitterness to an already untenable situation.

As far as Who Dats are concerned, Roger Goodell and the NFL have no love for NOLA — and you can bet that the bad relationship between the Saints and the NFL will only get worse in 2019.

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.

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