NFL owners who are registered Republicans may soon be reconsidering their party affiliation.
One week after Will Weatherford, a Florida Republican who controls the flow of traffic in the House of Representatives, killed a bill that would have allowed voters to approve (or reject) public money for stadium upgrades, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced legislation that among other things would end blackouts of NFL games played in stadiums funded with taxpayers dollars.
“When the venue in which these sporting events take place has been the beneficiary of taxpayer funding, it is unconscionable to deny those taxpayers who paid for it the ability to watch the games on television when they would otherwise be available,” McCain said, via the Los Angeles Times.
He makes a valid point, as it relates to stadiums that aren’t privately owned and privately financed. The NFL obviously will enlist its lobbyists to beat back the proposal, since the NFL naturally wants to maintain revenue streams coming from people who watch the games from home and who watch the games in person.
Still, the league gradually has been relaxing the blackout rule. For starters, only non-premium seats fit into the equation; a team can sell none of its premium seats or suites and the games will still be televised locally. Also, the NFL decided in 2012 to allow teams to reduce the minimum threshold from 100 percent of the non-premium seats to 85 percent. As to any of the seats that remain unsold, teams and/or sponsors can buy the unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar and lift the blackout.
So while the NFL ostensibly blacks out games as a tool for ensuring that the televised images reflect the excitement of a full stadium, it’s ultimately about money. And as the NFL makes more money from its TV contracts, maybe less money should be expected from ticket sales — especially in cities where the franchises have been unable to lure customers through the turnstiles with the likelihood of witnessing a victory by the home team.