Louisiana resident Matt Bowers erupted in disbelief Sunday night when referees blew a call late in the NFC Championship Game paving the way for the Los Angeles Rams - not his beloved New Orleans Saints - to reach the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
On Monday morning he decided to let Atlantans - and NFL executives descending on this city ahead of the Feb. 3 game between the Rams and New England Patriots - know about it.
Bowers, who owns car dealerships in New Orleans, quickly purchased temporary rights to billboards at three locations around Atlanta. Within a couple hours, motorists here started being greeted with the following digital messages: ‘SAINTS GOT ROBBED,’ ‘NFL BLEAUX IT!’ and ‘ROGER GOODELL KNEW DAT!’
The advertisements may spread to three more locations in the coming days, said Hal Kilshaw, an executive at Lamar Advertising, which rented out the space. They currently include billboards on I-75 North near the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, near Sandy Springs on I-285 and on I-75 near the Cumberland exit.
Bowers said he was watching Sunday’s playoff football game in a suite with his wife and two young children at the Superdome in New Orleans when he felt a mix of anger, disgust, even horror.
Losing when you are so close is one thing. But losing, in part, because the officials failed to call pass interference on a play that the league admitted afterwards should have drawn a penalty flag, well, that was just too much to handle. The Rams went on to beat the Saints 26-23 in overtime. It will likely go down as one of the worst no-calls in NFL history.
“When I walked out of the game, it was like a funeral procession,” Bowers told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I knew what everyone around me was feeling - young, old, black, white. It was this feeling of deep sadness and despair. And then I woke up the next morning and I was angry. I thought this is not right.”
The Saints and Atlanta Falcons represent one of the bigger rivalries in professional sports but Bowers, 44, said that has nothing to do with his billboard campaign.
“It’s only because the Super Bowl is there,” he said. “I want an investigation. I have never questioned the integrity of the game before this, but I do now.”
Kilshaw, of Lamar Advertising, said the billboards will remain through the Super Bowl.
Bowers, who often books billboards for his car dealerships, said he called his Lamar Advertising contacts on Monday morning around 8:45 a.m. He would not disclose the investment but said it was tens of thousands of dollars, adding “it was worth every nickel.”