New York (AFP) - Retiring New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson and US Senator Bill Cassidy called out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday for staying silent in the wake of a controversial ending in last weekend's playoff game at New Orleans.
A clear pass interference violation by Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman went unwhistled in the last minutes of regulation time in the Saints' 26-23 over-time loss to the Rams last Sunday that cost New Orleans a berth in Super Bowl 53.
"The state of Louisiana is outraged," Cassidy told fellow lawmakers Friday, dubbing the non-call a "travesty" that was "the most blantant and consequential blown call in NFL history."
Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game that Al Riveron, the NFL head of officiating, admitted to him that officials "blew the call," which would have allowed New Orleans to run the clock to the last seconds and attempt a short game-winning field goal.
Since then, there has been no official comment on the matter from the league.
Watson, who missed Sunday's game recovering from appendicitis, is retiring after 14 NFL seasons, but not before calling out Goodell late Thursday in a statement on a link off a Twitter posting.
"Commissioner Goodell. We all realize that football is an imperfect game, played, coached and officiated by imperfect people. What occurred last Sunday in New Orleans, though, was outside of that expected and accepted norm," Watson wrote.
"Your continued silence on this matter is unbecoming of the position you hold, detrimental to the integrity of the game and disrespectful and dismissive to football fans everywhere.
"From the locker room to Park Ave (in New York where the NFL office is located), accountability is what makes our league great. Lead by example. We are waiting."
Goodell will meet with the media next Wednesday in an annual news conference ahead of the Super Bowl, which will pit the Rams against the New England Patriots in Atlanta on February 3.
Already billboards have been raised near the Super Bowl stadium by an unhappy New Orleans businessman bearing the message "Saints Got Robbed."
"It really is a taint upon the Super Bowl," Cassidy said.
Gary Cavaletto, the official near the play who did not thrown his flag, lives in South California.
"Saints fans would like to have an accountability for the referees," Cassidy said. "People look into conflicts of interest. It has been pointed out that the referee who missed the call lives in Los Angeles. Is he a die-hard Rams fan? There is still no official statement from the NFL. Perhaps they could answer some of these questions."
- Goodell to Capitol Hill? -
The outcry comes after Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana member of the US House of Representatives, called for Goodell to testify before lawmakers about the call.
"The Saints should be on their way to Atlanta to play in the Super Bowl. Instead, they are left with the memory of officials who failed to create an equal playing field and deprived them of that opportunity," Richmond said in a statement.
"I have since spoken with colleagues on the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee about inviting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to answer some important questions about the unfair call against the Saints, a call that he has the jurisdiction to overturn.
"I stand with Saints owner Gayle Benson on the urgency and significance of having this issue addressed so that it does not happen again."
An obscure NFL rules allows Goodell the power to take "corrective measures" if an incident is "so extraordinarily unfair" that it has a major impact on the outcome of a game.