Sen. Sherrod Brown questions NFL television blackout policy


The National Football League has maintained a rule which forces footballs games off of local television in the event that they have failed to sell out all tickets 72 hours prior to kick-off. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is suggesting that the policy be abandoned during the current sour economy.

Brown cited an average ticket price of $77, and noted that many Americans who would like to follow their favorite team simply cannot scrape up enough cash to attend a game in person.

In a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Brown wrote, “Football has been a long source of pride for communities across Ohio. It is deeply troubling that increasing blackouts could deprive families and friends the tradition of watching their beloved Cleveland Browns or Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoons. I ask the NFL to examine its current television blackout policies and develop solutions that allow for franchises to remain viable businesses, while allowing fans to enjoy the game they love, both in person at the stadium or on television at home.” 

“NFL blackout policies should be revisited as our nation faces the worst economic crisis in generations,” Brown continued. “During these difficult times, working families are struggling to make ends meet. Although appealing, attending a football game is simply cost prohibitive for too many Ohioans. The average price for an NFL game ticket is $77 – nearly ten times the hourly minimum wage. The problem will only become worse, as 18 teams have increased ticket prices for the upcoming 2010 season.”

Brown noted that there were 22 black-out games in 2009, and the total only figured to increase this year.

RBR-TVBR observation: It always seemed to us that you might find a picture of the NFL blackout policy in the dictionary next to the word anachronism. It was one thing when the league was new and just gathering steam; it’s quite another now that it has established itself as America’s #1 sport.

Maybe there are slide-rule people in the employ of the NFL telling them to keep the policy in place, but it still seems counter-intuitive. The games’ not sold out – and it’s not going to sell out. Why exacerbate the problem by pulling the plug on television revenues, not to mention putting a fresh wound in the league’s good will with its fans?

Major League Baseball got rid of its phobia about televising home games a long time ago. It’s time the NFL followed suit, whether or not the economy is bad.