With Super Bowl Sunday quickly approaching, the controversy surrounding the NFC Divisional Championship is still fresh, with the latest development only adding to the drama.
On Sunday (Jan. 27), ESPN reported that concerns are being raised around the NFL's decision to allow four referees with Southern California ties to judge the contest between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. Per the piece, sources believe that their connection to the Los Angeles might have played a role in the no call on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman's blatant pass interference against the Saints' Tommylee Lewis.
Many are wondering privately how head referee Bill Vinovich who lives in Newport Beach, CA, was paired with LA County resident Patrick Turner as well as Dan Arnold and Todd Prukop who live in Santa Barbara and Mission Viejo, respectfully. This lineup goes against the leagues' extensive list of checks and balances placed in effect to ensure a fair game. The skeptics are interested in hearing why the NFL decided to assign the refs to the Rams/Saints game and not Kansas City/New England or why the officiating crew was assembled in the first place. However, the NFL sought to quiet these rumors with a short but firm response.
"Officiating assignments are based on performance," a league spokesperson said. "Not geographic location."
The Saints elected not to release an official comment, but it is noted that the team does not believe that the game was fixed in any way.
"I haven't heard anybody say the game was fixed; I have heard people say the crew f'ed up," a source told ESPN. "But the optic is bad. It's a legit issue and they should have figured that out."