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Saints fans stage huge Super Bowl protest in New Orleans

Saints fans protest the NFL in New Orleans. (Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune via AP)
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Saints fans outraged by their team’s loss in the NFC championship game were hardly about to let go of that frustration on the day of the Super Bowl. Ahead of the matchup Sunday between the Rams and Patriots, thousands of Saints supporters swarmed New Orleans streets in a demonstration that, in the spirit of the Big Easy, was as much of a party as a protest.

Dubbed the “Blackout and Gold Second-Line Parade,” a reference to the Saints' colors, the demonstration included plenty of fans wearing team paraphernalia, as well as some with shirts bearing messages that decried the officiating no-call that helped Los Angeles advance to the Super Bowl.

Fans gathered Sunday near Jackson Square, a popular destination in the city’s French Quarter, to let their feelings be known, or just to join in the kind of raucous but generally joyous celebration for which New Orleans is famous. Referring to the location of the Super Bowl, one Saints fan told the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “I don’t think any losing team is going to have a party like we’re going to have here. It’s going to be better than what’s going on in Atlanta today.”

While some elsewhere in the country noted that the protest began ahead of kickoff, potentially giving disaffected Saints fans time to watch the game if they so desired, many in the city have made a point of declaring they would not watch, and a “Boycott Bowl” event was also staged Sunday in New Orleans. The second line included a jazz funeral, to symbolically lay to rest a Saints season that many felt ended too soon.

“We’re angry,” Lauren Haydel, a Saints fan and business owner who started selling shirts featuring a referee voodoo doll with pins sticking out of it, said last week (via the AP). “We’re not even going to go to a place with TVs on. I don’t care to watch it.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged earlier this week that an officiating error was made on the no-call, in which the Rams were not flagged for pass interference, costing the Saints a chance to run down the clock and end the game with a short field goal. “It’s a play that should be called,” Goodell said. “We’re going to make sure that we do everything possible to address the issues going forward and see if there are improvements we can make with instant replay or anything else."

“I understand the emotions,” Goodell added.

A U.S. senator representing Louisiana, Bill Cassidy, went so far as to denounce the no-call on the Senate floor, and some New Orleans fans filed lawsuits, including one that resulted in a federal judge ruling against a mandated do-over of the Saints-Rams contest.

“This is what happens when Saints fans come together,” an organizer of one of the protests told the Times-Picayune. “We realize that the game is not about the score; it’s about a winning attitude, spirit and showing the world that we are not defeated.”

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