NEW ORLEANS (AP) – New Orleans Saints ticket holders who blame NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the team’s disappointing season aren’t entitled to special compensation for their suffering, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Helen “Ginger” Berrigan dismissed a class-action lawsuit that a Saints season-ticket holder, David Mancina, filed against the NFL and Goodell over the league’s bounty investigation, which led to suspensions of players, coaches and its general manager.
The suit claimed the NFL’s sanctions against the team over its alleged system of offering cash bonuses to Saints players for big hits punished ticket holders more than anyone else and sought more than $5 million in damages.
Berrigan rejected the notion that Saints ticket holders were the only ones who could have experienced “mental suffering” from the team’s 7-9 record this season.
“Rather, that agony has been much more widely felt by the Who Dat Nation,” Berrigan wrote in her ruling, which came only days before New Orleans hosts Sunday’s Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.
Mancina, 56, of Mandeville, claimed he and other ticket holders were entitled to compensation for the diminished vale of their tickers and their “personal emotional reaction to the unwarranted penalties inflicted on their beloved team, players, coaches, and executives.”
Berrigan, however, said Mancina hadn’t provided any legal support for the argument that a “sport fan has rights greater than those of a spectator, regardless of how ardent his team devotion may be.”
Berrigan also presided over lawsuits that Saints players filed against Goodell and the league over their suspensions. The player suspensions eventually were overturned, but the coaches served their punishments.
Earlier this month, Berrigan dismissed Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against Goodell. She referenced the other cases in her ruling Wednesday.
“First, as this court has previously stated, even if the process surrounding ‘Bountygate’ was initially procedurally flawed, it resulted in a revised discipline accepted by those involved based on the finding that ‘conduct detrimental’ to the game of football had occurred,” she wrote. “In addition, the only distinction between a ticket holder who is a fan and a ticketless fan is the ticket holder’s right to entry and seating at the game granted by the license.”
Mancina and his attorney, Lawrence Wiedemann, said they hadn’t discussed whether to appeal her ruling.
“I really do believe the season-ticket holders were affected, and that’s a number you can quantify,” Mancina said. ‘It was suffering, particularly at the front end of the season with the way we were losing.”
Wiedemann said the suit wasn’t a publicity stunt and that he still believes the law is on their side.
“I thought there was a legitimate right to recover or I wouldn’t have filed the lawsuit,” he said.
Even if the case ends with Berrigan’s ruling, Mancina said he doesn’t regret suing.
“I can’t tell you the number of people who said, ‘I’m so glad you did that,’” he said.