Senators Urge NFL’s Roger Goodell to Drop Blackout Policies

NFL Blackout Rules Greenbay
David Banks/Getty Images

A day after the FCC abandoned its sports blackout rules, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are urging the NFL to voluntarily rescind its own policies that force stations to not air home games that don’t sell out.

“The NFL has received substantial benfits from the public in the form of antitrust exemptions, a specialized tax status, and direct taxpayer dollars that subsidize football arenas and sports stadium,” they wrote in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “…The provision of these substantial public benefits requires that the NFL meet basic obligations to the American public and loyal fans, and this includes abandoning rules that punish those same fans.”

The FCC on Wednesday voted unanimously to end its 40-year-old sports blackout rule, but it didn’t mean an end to NFL blackouts. The regulation prohibited cable and satellite providers from picking up a feed of a game to air in a local market where the broadcast station blacked it out.

The NFL can still require that stations which obtain rights to games agree to blackouts if a certain number of seats remain unsold before game day.

McCain and Blumenthal authored legislation last year that would condition the NFL’s antitrust exemption on it agreeing to end sports blackouts.

“If the NFL fails to show leadership to finally end blackouts once and for all, Congress will be forced to act,” McCain and Blumenthal wrote.

Their letter is here.


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  1. Todd Maddison says:

    Funny that these Senators can lay out the real problem right in front of everyone and no one notices. There’s no particular reason to support the business of football with preferential government treatment – let’s stop THAT if we want to actually DO something.

    And, of course, these are both Senators, so they’re a member of a very select group of people who could actually do something – but they won’t, because everyone else reading this article won’t even SEE that logical problem when they read it….

  2. Harlowe Thrombey says:

    Why are my Senators wasting time trying to help football fans? Why aren’t they working on preventing the Time-Warner/Comcast merger instead?

  3. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    I live in a State with 3 NFL Teams. My City (Orlando) does not have a NFL Franchise and we are right square in the middle of the 3 Teams. So therefore the NFL decides for us our fan base within a 50 mile radius. And the affiliates must air the regional Teams as well. Although I’m 5 hours by car away from Miami, we get first the Dolphin games over other National Broadcast games. And 3 hours from Jacksonville, so the Jaguar games must be shown. The 50 mile radius team is The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This policy hurts not only the Broadcasters in my market but also the neutral fan base that misses the Network’s games of the week. Anybody else in this complex delema?

  4. This aint-trust exemption has to end.

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