WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), today spoke on the Senate floor regarding “the most blatant and consequential blown call in NFL history,” which kept the New Orleans Saints from winning the NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams and then playing in the Super Bowl.
Yesterday, Cassidy spoke on the Senate floor regarding the partial government shutdown and called for a compromise to re-open government, get federal workers the paychecks they are owed, and secure the border. On the same day, Democrats blocked Cassidy’s legislation to pay federal workers who are working without pay.
Before speaking today about the Saints game, Cassidy once again called on Republicans and Democrats to come together and negotiate an end to the shutdown.
Dr. Cassidy’s remarks on the Senate floor today are transcribed below.
Obviously, the news that is dominating Washington, D.C., and indeed the nation, is the shutdown. Yesterday I came on a colloquy with other colleagues, and both Democrat and Republican, asking that we find some middle way.
The president clearly has moved. He has offered to reopen the government, I’m told, if only a down payment would be made to construct the wall, and has come forward with a good-faith effort.
Ms. Pelosi, I ask that—she is the speaker [of the House] who seems to be his chief negotiating partner—would do the same. I myself have two pieces of legislation that I will be offering either today or Monday. One that will ease the burden upon those federal workers who are still working but not getting paid, and we thank them so much for doing so, as well as to come up with an alternative way to perhaps fund the wall.
But Mr. President, with the seriousness of that, I also want to address one other issue, which is particularly serious to folks in Louisiana. And I hope it doesn’t seem out of place with the shutdown, but I can tell you, to folks back home, it is something which continues to disturb them.
Mr. President, I’d like to bring up the NFC championship game. The state of Louisiana is outraged because of what happened in the Superdome last Sunday. Televisions were broken. Super Bowl boycott concerts scheduled. Billboards put up in Atlanta. Fans filed lawsuits.
My colleague in the House of Representatives is calling for the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell to come testify in front of Congress on the travesty that occurred five days ago. What happened, in my belief and the belief of many, was the most blatant and consequential blown call in NFL history.
Now, for those who missed it, on Sunday night during the NFC Championship game, the score is tied with less than two minutes to go. It’s third and long, and the Saints are in position to score. And Drew Brees throws a pass which is right there, there’s the ball. There’s the receiver and there’s the defender.
For those not familiar with football—and I know that the Presiding Officer [Senator John Boozman] played at University of Arkansas. Not a bad school, even though it’s not a Louisiana school.
The defender is not looking back at the quarterback. He is not looking to intercept. He is only looking to plow through the receiver.
Now, every drunk sitting on a stool in every bar throughout the nation looked up at that TV and said, “there’s interference!” One thing you don’t see from this picture, though, is there is also helmet-to-helmet contact, which is also a penalty. It was a twofer.
On one play, the Los Angeles Ram defender committed two egregious penalties, and everybody in the Superdome and everybody watching knew it happened, except for him, the referee.
Now, I don’t mean to pick on this referee. I’m sure he is a very nice man, a good family man, et cetera. But he missed a call with less than two minutes that everyone agrees would have changed the course of the game.
The Saints would have had a first down automatically. They would have drained the clock. They would have then kicked a field goal, and the game would have been over.
Now, LeBron James, Dez Bryant, Melvin Gordan, Richard Sherman, J.J. Watts, even Hulk Hogan took to Twitter to call out the call. The defender said, “I interfered with him.” He admitted it. “I thought I was going to get called, but I didn’t.”
The pass interference was not called, and now the Rams will play in the Super Bowl against the Patriots instead of the Saints.
Which is kind of a shame. It really is a taint upon the Super Bowl. It won’t be the two best teams. it will be the two teams that got there, at least in one case because someone did not see an obvious call.
Now, I don’t just mean to kvetch, which obviously all Saints fans continue to be upset, but it’s actually, if you will, about the integrity of the game.
If you speak of the NFL, it almost becomes a metaphor for that which is the most competitive, the highest quality, where coaches and athletes dedicate themselves, honing their skills to the absolute highest level. As folks say, if you can win in the NFL, you can win anywhere.
It is a metaphor. The Saints, every football team, invests heavily in this. Football fans really come to town on this.
So the question is, did the NFL—we have a few questions for them. How are the officials selected for this game? For example, they grade officials after every game. Were the best officials sent to this game or was it just a rotation?
If it’s just a rotation, how did the referees who officiated this game grade? Now, I don’t want this to be too personal, but if somebody commits a penalty during a football game, the referee will say number 74 was offsides, and the NFL has an accountability in the performance of everybody in the game. So I think Saints’ fans would like to have an accountability for the referees.
Did people look into conflicts of interest? It’s been pointed out that the referee who missed the call lives in Los Angeles. Is he a die-hard Rams’ fan?
Again, how did these referees get scored in this game? After every game, the referee is kind of given a grade. Was it an A+ or was it a C-?
And if it is a lower score, what was the comment on this particular play? Now, Saints coach Sean Payton said the senior vice president of officiating admitted to him in a private phone call that the official messed up, but there is still no official statement from the NFL. So perhaps they could answer these questions in such an official statement.
Now, football’s more than a game. It’s part of our culture, and I would say the NFL has a responsibility to the millions of fans across the country to ensure the integrity of the game and to answer these questions and perhaps a few others.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.