All politics are local: Senator blasts NFL blackout policy before playoff game
January 2nd, 2014
03:11 PM ET
4 months ago

All politics are local: Senator blasts NFL blackout policy before playoff game

Update 3:34 p.m. ET, 1/3/2014: The Bengals ticket office announced Friday that the game is now sold out. The company Procter & Gamble and its brands, including Tide, Gillette, CoverGirl and Bounty, purchased remaining tickets. Kroger will distribute the tickets to military veterans and active duty service members.

Washington (CNN) – With the prospect of their Sunday game against the San Diego Chargers being blacked out of the Cincinnati market, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has a message for the FCC: Don’t mess with Ohio’s football.

In a letter to Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Brown blasts the blackout rule, a decades-old policy that prevents television outlets in the team’s home market from airing the home team game if the stadiums isn’t close to sold out. The rule aimed to prevent football fans from staying home to watch their local team play while seats at the stadium remained empty.

“This is unacceptable at a time when the price of attending games continues to rise and the economy is not yet where it needs to be,” Brown said in the letter sent Thursday. “Fans, through local taxes, often help pay for the stadiums. They should be able to cheer on their local teams, especially during the playoffs.”

After winning their division this year, the Bengals secured the third seed in the NFL playoffs and a game at home – in Paul Brown Stadium. But as Thursday’s deadline to sell the necessary tickets to break the blackout neared, the possibility of Bengals fans being unable to watch their team play from home grew.

“Let's keep The Jungle rockin' this Sunday for the Wild Card Playoff Game,” the team tweeted on Thursday, with a link to its online ticket store.

And while the FCC moved to end the blackout rule last month, Brown said that provided little comfort to Bengals fans who might miss Sunday’s game.

“While the FCC’s recent unanimous vote to eliminate the Sports Blackout Rule is excellent news for fans and taxpayers across Ohio and across the country, the NFL should do everything it can to ensure that the Cincinnati Bengals' Sunday playoff game is not blacked out,” the senator said.

The blackout rule has roots in the 1950s and 1960s when ticket sales were a significant portion of team revenue. But with high definition televisions and the massive growth of TV, broadcast revenues now dwarf ticket sales.

The NFL has also become more popular. Fewer games aren’t sold out, meaning blackouts are rare – during the 2011 season, only 16 games were blacked out. That wasn’t the case in the 1970s, when low attendances meant as many as 59% of NFL games were blacked out, the FCC said.

In response to the FCC’s move to end the rule, the NFL said it would “strongly oppose any change in the rule.”

"We are on pace for a historic low number of blackouts since the policy was implemented 40 years ago," said Brian McCarthy, a vice president at the NFL. "While affecting very few games the past decade, the blackout rule is very important in supporting NFL stadiums and the ability of NFL clubs to sell tickets and keeping our games attractive as television programming with large crowds."

The NFL blackout issues isn’t new to Brown. In 2012, he wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that asked the league to reverse its blackout policy.

In Thursday’s letter, Brown said showing the game on television should not hinge on whether people can afford tickets.

“Sports fans make significant financial investments in their home teams through local, county, and other taxes and should not be denied access to a local game because they cannot afford tickets,” he wrote. “The current blackout policy does not serve taxpayers, sports fans, or networks.”

- CNN Money’s Greg Wallace contributed to this report.


Filed under: Ohio
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    “Fans, through local taxes, often help pay for the stadiums. They should be able to cheer on their local teams, especially during the playoffs."
    ----------------------–
    Playoffs? Playoffs! PLAYOFFS. He raises a good point. They should be able to cheer their local teams, especially during the playoffs with sub-zero wind chills.

    January 2, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    I would not be happy if the Bucs were blacked out, but it will be a few years til Lovie gets them turned around.

    January 2, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    Tom l – I know you are super sensitive, but CNN did not like my response. Next time.

    January 2, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    That sucks that your local network won't air the home team during the PLAYOFFS!!! By the way, Sen. Brown would be great as a running mate. However, we need strong leaders like him to remain in the Senate.

    January 2, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. tom l

    @Rudy,
    "against most every major piece of legislation the Obama administration put forth. Joe was as anti-Obama as they come"

    =====

    There you go again, just making stuff up. Lieberman voted for the ACA, the "stimulus" package, the Dodd Frank Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act and many more.

    Tell me Rudy, now that I have demonstrated how patently false your accusation was that he voted against everything Obama wanted, maybe you can give me a few things that he actually did vote against Obama on. Where did he not support Obama?

    Oh, and Ol Yeller, since I'm pro choice, think that gay marriage should be legal and am for the legalization of drugs I don't think I would make the best spokesman for the republican party. But, that's ok. Keep trying to paint however you want. I know it makes you feel so much better about yourself.

    January 2, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. Fair is Fair

    Stupid rule. The NFL and its teams make plenty of money off the TV revenue. A law whose intent was good at the time but whose time has come for repeal.

    January 2, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. Ol' Yeller

    Luckily some guy named yolanda straightened me out in the previous thread on Lieberman.
    Apparently she is a self appointed 'judge' of the posts on here (I thought CNN had a moderator).
    Anyway 'yolanda', you told me to go back and read my post claiming I called people names. I went back and read it and in fact I called nobody, no group, no individual, no one whatsoever any name.
    All I did was name the groups which now make up the republicant party and if you got all bu tt hurt because you you fell in that last category... well, too bad.
    It ain't my fault you went to a charter school...

    January 2, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. guest

    This happened to the fans of the Miami Dolphins not too long ago. They made the playoffs with a home field game in the first round, but did not sell out the stadium. Fans in Miami couldn't watch the game, but an hour up the road in hollywood beach we had the game on TV.

    I will say the dolphins fans didnt miss much, a 64-0 blow out by Jacksonville, but it was still pretty tragic it wasnt on TV in Miami.

    January 2, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. tom l

    @Ol Yeller
    "fact I called nobody, no group, no individual, no one whatsoever any name.
    All I did was name the groups which now make up the republicant party"

    ========

    Folks, you can't make this stuff up. So here's a little insight for you, Mr. Yeller, when you refer to the republicans as "repulicants", you indeed call them a name and it is very childish. It's childish and quite immature.

    And I'm not even sure what you mean by the charter school comment. Perhaps you can elaborate on that one....

    And, finally, you have decided to be the self appointed judge with my post and have basically referenced me as the representative speaker for all things republican and now you don't like it when someone does it to you.

    You are in the running for least self aware person on here. It's a tough award to win with people like Tampa Tim and Mallory, but you really have a good chance at winning this one.

    January 2, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. Ol' Yeller

    "Oh, and Ol Yeller, since I'm pro choice, think that gay marriage should be legal and am for the legalization of drugs I don't think I would make the best spokesman for the republican party. But, that's ok. Keep trying to paint however you want. I know it makes you feel so much better about yourself."

    I didn't say you were 'the best spokesman for the republican party'. You are better than most on here, because you can put a a couple of coherent sentences together.... sometimes.
    I said you were the 'self appointed republicant partisan policeman' which you come across as being when all you do is point out some petty little nothing about another poster, which you defended to the hilt a couple of weeks ago when a US Senator did it (simply because he is a te a bag ger and a 'so called' Libertarian, which you fancy yourself being).
    If you are gonna do what you do, then I'm gonna call you on it.
    And no amount of projection or self victimization on your part is going to stop that from happening.

    January 2, 2014 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    tom l. tries to be misleading ;

    @Rudy,
    "against most every major piece of legislation the Obama administration put forth. Joe was as anti-Obama as they come"

    There you go again, just making stuff up. Lieberman voted for the ACA, the "stimulus" package, the Dodd Frank Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act and many more.

    Tell me Rudy, now that I have demonstrated how patently false your accusation was that he voted against everything Obama wanted, maybe you can give me a few things that he actually did vote against Obama on. Where did he not support Obama?
    ---------------------
    It is totally dishonest to quote a partial sentence, tom.

    "...initially voted against most every major piece of legislation the Obama administration put forth. Joe was as anti-Obama as they come."

    You left out the "initially voted" part, just like I knew you would. Leiberman wouldn't support stuff until the legislation was saddled with amendments to defang the legislation. A perfect example of it is the ACA. May I remind you that Leiberman was in the media's top 3 finalists to be McCain's VP pick. Furthermore, Leiberman had been pro-Hillary, jumped ship to the Republicans when she lost, and gave a speech at the RNC convention in support of McCain. If that is not anti-Obama, then please tell what is? Ah, don't bother. You are a perfect example.

    January 2, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Stupid rule. The NFL and its teams make plenty of money off the TV revenue. A law whose intent was good at the time but whose time has come for repeal.
    -----------------------–
    The waiting list for NY Giants season tickets was over 20 years and growing. The list has been "years" long ever since they built the Meadowlands Giants Stadium nearly 40 years ago. They finally did away with a waiting list when they built the new stadium. They're always sold out for regular season games.

    January 2, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    @ Ol' Yeller,

    All I did was name the groups which now make up the republicant party and if you got all bu tt hurt because you you fell in that last category... well, too bad.
    ================================================

    Shhh............ They don't like it when you post facts against them. god bless hypocrisy. god bless greed.

    January 2, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. yolanda

    Thin skin there Ol' Yeller?

    January 2, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. Ol' Yeller

    Oh, tom I....
    You didn't even let me finish my response (see post below your whinefest above) where I told you "And no amount of projection or self victimization on your part is going to stop that from happening."
    You never fail me... I make a post to respond to your drivel and out comes the pity party ballons and hats.
    I NEVER said I wasn't partisan (I am- see my monikor – Ol' Yeller and make a connection- yellow dog Democrat). As for your turning my spelling of the word republican into 'name calling' simply by my addition of the 'T' to reflect boner's famous quote of 'Hell, No You Can't"... then knock yourself out.
    I could care less.
    I have a thick skin, unlike some people on here...

    January 2, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. Thomas

    Greedy owners , most Americans can't afford to take there kids to a game . Sell the tickets cheep the day of the game , or donate some tickets to non profits or military . The corporate fans will always have there box seats .

    Great job Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio !
    We need more likeminded politicians such as yourself in other cities , especially San Diego .

    Why wont the Speaker of the House ," John A. Boehner ", 8th Congressional District of Ohio, Republican Party stand up for his State's football fans ? Why , because he's been bought and payed for to do NOTHING !
    Where's the Jobs , Where's the Jobs , I can still here his voice .

    Go 49's , Go Chargers !

    January 2, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  17. tom l

    @Rudy,
    "against most every major piece of legislation the Obama administration put forth. Joe was as anti-Obama as they come"

    There you go again, just making stuff up. Lieberman voted for the ACA, the "stimulus" package, the Dodd Frank Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act and many more.

    Tell me Rudy, now that I have demonstrated how patently false your accusation was that he voted against everything Obama wanted, maybe you can give me a few things that he actually did vote against Obama on. Where did he not support Obama?
    -------
    It is totally dishonest to quote a partial sentence, tom.

    "...initially voted against most every major piece of legislation the Obama administration put forth. Joe was as anti-Obama as they come."

    You left out the "initially voted" part, just like I knew you would. Leiberman wouldn't support stuff until the legislation was saddled with amendments to defang the legislation. A perfect example of it is the ACA. May I remind you that Leiberman was in the media's top 3 finalists to be McCain's VP pick. Furthermore, Leiberman had been pro-Hillary, jumped ship to the Republicans when she lost, and gave a speech at the RNC convention in support of McCain. If that is not anti-Obama, then please tell what is? Ah, don't bother. You are a perfect example.

    =====

    This is priceless. Ummm, nice try but how could Lieberman vote against everything "Obama put forth" because he was one of McCain's top 3 picks for VP when that's not even possible? Your time line is off. Obama didn't have any legislation to support until AFTER he became president which would make your statement completely nonsensical. His speech was BEFORE any Obama legislation. His support of Hillary was BEFORE any legislation that Obama had wanted. When he was in the Senate, he caucused with the dems. You are completely lost on this one and very confused.

    January 2, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. Smitty

    Typical Dem cannot obey the rules. True fans would of filled the stadium. As far as the Bucs Timmy, no chance, Lovie is like Romo always chokes at the wrong time. Keep dreaming.

    January 2, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |