Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

January 3, 2014

NFL blackmails fans with threats of playoff blackouts

(Continued)

“I think that’s outrageous,” McCain said during a Senate hearing last spring. “Now, if that stadium is not taxpayer financed, then that owner can do anything they want to. But if the taxpayers paid for them, by God, I think taxpayers ought to be able to see the game whether they sell out the stadium or not.”

McCain’s bid to end blackouts in places with publicly funded stadiums hasn’t gotten far in the legislative maze, but how many bills have on Capitol Hill?

What's significant is that the rule is getting prominent scrutiny.

Even last month, the Federal Communications Commission proposed doing away with blackouts in all pro sports.

“There is evidence that after nearly 40 years, the Sports Blackout Rule has outlived its relevance and utility,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in a statement.

What’s amusing in this replay of the blackout scenario is how the NFL caters to large corporate interests, then puts the pressure on blue collar fans to save the day.

This week the Colts were frantically trying to sell a remaining 4,500 tickets for Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, with prices starting at $56. The Bengals listed about 8,000 tickets for sale earlier in the week, with face values of about $100 apiece, for the matchup with the San Diego Chargers.

The situation was about the same in Green Bay, where the Packers had yet to sell 7,500 tickets, with prices for most of those falling between $100 and $125.

Given the weather expected across the Midwest, it’s not surprising that some fans prefer to stay home. In fact, it’s the quality of today’s high-definition televisions that leads some fans to argue that the best seats for the games are in their living rooms.

Nevertheless, the idea of the NFL not televising a game in a local market is unconscionable. It hasn’t happened since 2002 and would be a black eye for a league so eager to protect its reputation as America's favorite sport.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

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