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Today’s politicians could finish what Nixon started in 1972

Nixon Getty Images

At a time when some politicians want to end blackouts for any stadiums built or maintained with public money, Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press looks back more than 40 years, at a time when all games, sold out or not, were still blacked out in the local market, and when the U.S. Commander-in-Chief despised that policy.

Murphy dusts off transcripts of the recorded conversations at the Nixon White House, quoting the late former president regarding his disagreement with the concept of blackouts.

I think that’s terrible,” Nixon said.  “I think I might call them up and say, ‘Put it on TV or I’ll sue them all.’  I’m all for it.  I’ve said that several times.”

Nixon particularly was miffed in December 1972 because the Redskins would soon be playing a postseason game at sold-out RFK Stadium — but no one in D.C. would be able to watch it.

“I think it’s a bad policy,” Nixon said at the time.  “Listen, get the whole bunch, get the whole country riled up.  That’s my point.  Why just make it a Washington story?”

Not long after that, Attorney General Richard Kleindienst met with Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  The offer was simple.  Lift blackouts for playoff games, and Congress won’t require that regular-season games be televised in home markets.  Rozelle declined, and by 1973 all games sold out within 72 hours before kickoff were televised in the home team’s market.

Renewed attacks on the current policy come at a time when the NFL desperately wants more people to choose to attend games.  If the government ever takes away the stick of a blackout, the league will would have to come up with even better carrots to ensure that the stadiums will be full.

Only so many bells and whistles can be added to the experience.  At some point, the league needs to find ways to reduce the cost of the experience.  Or, possibly, to shrink the size of the stadiums.

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46 Responses to “Today’s politicians could finish what Nixon started in 1972”
  1. thefox61 says: Jul 7, 2013 12:35 PM

    How about a government subsidy to attend games?

  2. prosb4hos says: Jul 7, 2013 12:35 PM

    “At some point, the league needs to find ways to reduce the cost of the experience”

    BINGO. $250 jerseys, $8 beers, $150 tix, $25 parking, on and on…. Most people end up in jail when they rob you.

  3. biglionsfan says: Jul 7, 2013 12:46 PM

    I’ve never been to a football game before, I’m 33 & love the lions to death, but I’ve never been able to afford the experience. I was born in michigan, live in nj, but I remember the games blacked out for us.. detroit I know is a really hard hit city.. there is enough support nationwide for teams to keep the games available… some one should do something.. I love football with such passion, but life is hard & not everyone blows money on what they can’t afford…

  4. mrb1onde says: Jul 7, 2013 12:50 PM

    This is a much more important issue than the Redskins’ name “controversy.” If politicians insist on getting involved in NFL affairs, getting the blackout rules abolished is their best opportunity to effect positive change on the game.

  5. butthatmakestoomuchsense says: Jul 7, 2013 12:53 PM

    Q: Why do football tickets, jerseys, parking, concessions, etc cost so much?

    A: Because plenty of people are willing to pay for those things.

    We’ve reached the point where the blackout issue is a red herring- people either want to attend the games or they don’t. No one says “the game isn’t on TV, so I guess I have to go see it”.

  6. bigbluefan11 says: Jul 7, 2013 1:14 PM

    I have Giants season tickets. Have been going to games since I was a kid and thoroughly enjoyed the game day experience growing up. I’m desperately trying to hang on until the Giants qualify to host another NFC championship game. Then I’ll sell my license and join the at home game day crowd. Why?

    $120 tickets. $30 parking. $10 beer. $8 hot dogs. Random closing of convenient parking lots with spaces available for “traffic flow control” that requires me to leave hours before the game or wait in traffic hours after. Rude rent-a-cop parking lot attendants with delusions of grandeur. A five mile hike into the stadium. An ugly battleship of a stadium that is nowhere near as cozy as old Giant stadium (But oh, those luxury suites). Fans more interested in shopping and concessions than watching the game. Fans that stand up in the middle of a play to walk out – even goal line plays.

    I blame the latter on the number of Giants stadium faithful that couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for the seat license. I like having my Twitter feed to get information at the stadium – it works well. And nothing matches the electricity of a tuned in crowd. But my HDTV and chair at home are comfortable. And $25 buys beer and snacks for the entire day.

  7. Matt says: Jul 7, 2013 1:16 PM

    First, don’t destroy our historic experiences. As a Raiders fan, I can say first hand that the Oakland Coliseum is a mecca for me. That’s why I go to games. I can say the same thing for Skins fans about RFK, Stillers fans about the old Three Rivers, Packers fans about Lambeau, etc. Destroying “old” stadiums destroys football meccas.

    Second, swallow some pride NFL and lower the cost of attending a game. Your television contracts are through the roof, and gate sales pale in comparison to TV money. That is a fact. You won’t suddenly go out of business if you make tickets affordable for a family of four. As a Raiders fan, I speak from experience saying that our games aren’t blacked out because the team doesn’t win [we sold out every game in the 2-14 Shell comeback year], or because we “don’t like the stadium experience”, but because our fans are just too damn poor to spend three hundred bucks for seats. Its a friggin’ robbery even with “cheap seats” and fan-conscious organizations like the Raiders.

  8. smoothaswilkes says: Jul 7, 2013 1:18 PM

    It’s an atrocity that any game is blacked out when the games are played in publicly funded stadiums. Plus, the NFL enjoys a tax exempt status which further exasperates the problem in my mind. I’m not usually an advocate of government interference but it’s warranted in this case. All games should be freely available in local markets.

  9. bornnraisedwhodat says: Jul 7, 2013 1:19 PM

    Lower prices and I will gladly attend games. Its just way too expensive. For the price of me and my 2 kids I can build a nice mancave.

  10. theoriginalbvan says: Jul 7, 2013 1:20 PM

    Tricky didn’t have the option of going to the local sports bar.

  11. dryzzt23 says: Jul 7, 2013 1:23 PM

    “We the people”, NOT the government, can do something about this problem.
    1. Don’t attend games
    2. Vilify greedy players who want way too much money.
    3. Don’t buy newspapers/magazines/go to websites of “journalists” who side with the greedy players. This drives up the costs for everyone but the player and only the players/media benefit.

  12. dan073eb says: Jul 7, 2013 1:28 PM

    “At some point, the league needs to find ways to reduce the cost of the experience. Or, possibly, to shrink the size of the stadiums.”

    Yeah, but don’t tarp off sections to shrink the size, cuz ya know, that doesn’t make sense.

  13. humb0lt says: Jul 7, 2013 1:40 PM

    Hey Matt,

    Oakland-Alameda stadium used to be a great place to watch the A’s play, with a really nice view of the Oakland Hills. The Raiders destroyed that when they moved back to Oakland and build Mount Davis, blocking that view.

    The Raiders’ decade-plus of sucking is not payback enough for ruining our stadium.

    – an A’s fan

  14. butthatmakestoomuchsense says: Jul 7, 2013 1:42 PM

    dryzzt23 says: Jul 7, 2013 1:23 PM
    “We the people”, NOT the government, can do something about this problem.
    1. Don’t attend games
    2. Vilify greedy players who want way too much money.
    3. Don’t buy newspapers/magazines/go to websites of “journalists” who side with the greedy players. This drives up the costs for everyone but the player and only the players/media benefit.

    How can someone read this site and NOT know (or should I say “not know”…wink) that the owners set the price for everything, pocket the first $2 Billion, and then give the players 50%?

    In other words, a reduction of player salaries would not result in lower prices for anything. That’s a simple, basic truth.

  15. booty2juiced says: Jul 7, 2013 1:45 PM

    Blackouts are stupid and just a way to make people go to games. If people cant afford overpriced tickets, they punish the whole area?

  16. jimhem says: Jul 7, 2013 1:54 PM

    The NFL has it totally backwards. How do fans become fans if they can’t watch their own team? The fact is, televising local games also advertises the game. Once a person gets hooked on the hometown team, experiencing them live becomes a must. Depriving the fan of viewing the team on TV invariably will drive the fan to another team.

  17. thestrategyexpert says: Jul 7, 2013 1:59 PM

    It should be against the law to black out the games from being televised.

    But if you want to increase the odds of me showing up to the stadium, then you’re going to have to remove the charge for parking. I don’t pay for parking, not at the grocery story, not at the library, not at the strip bar, not at the clinic, and I sure as heck wouldn’t pay for parking at a sports facility owned and operated by billionaires that fail at the management of my local team. Why the hell would I do that? I still have never been to Ford Field for anything other than a preseason game. I have been there once and I hated everything about the experience. It was awful. They couldn’t even figure out how to get the taps to work at one of their concession stands and had a line of people begging to pay $8 for a cup of beer that they couldn’t even oblige.

    But if you can’t get something like that right then at least focus on the important things, such as figuring out how to win a football game. These stadiums are often not full only because of the ownership taking failing actions and measures to give enough reason for them to be full.

    They only have themselves to blame, and I say don’t give them sympathy, but rather pound them with fines if you are going to offer anything to help. I think that help should be restricted to financial pressure to improve or go away.

  18. steelhammer92 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:02 PM

    Ticket prices have skyrocketed past the rate of inflation over the past 20 years. There’s your answer.

  19. jerrygray721 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:07 PM

    the other thing that politicians could finish that Nixon started would be the printing of money that we as a nation can’t back it happened first while he was in office.

  20. bunjy96 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:30 PM

    The present 85% rule isn’t even fair.

    All stadiums are not the same size. JAX stadium was built for the annual FL/GA and a college bowl game-so it’s unusually large. Some stadiums were built to be able to bid for a super bowl-(Examples: Tampa & Miami). No wonder they have black outs.

    Whatever the smallest stadium is (not counting premium seats) 85% of that number would make all cities equal. That should be for all games except the super bowl.

    Parking should be limited to a token fee just to pay game day expenses. Max $5

    Beer/soda prices for the same amount of ounces should be the same at all stadiums. Price governed by the league office to stop the gouging.

    Water should be maxed at $1

    Remember, owners get back a ton of money for TV, everything else is a plus.

    Greed is killing the experience for family attendance. How many families, realistically can afford 6 grand every year just to go to 10 football games?

  21. upperdecker19 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:35 PM

    If a dime of public money is used to construct a stadium, the public should have 100% full access to this asset at any time. Just like public roads……

    oh wait, we pay tolls to use those after paying to build and maintain them.

  22. dietrich43 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:37 PM

    How about government just stays out of it? No control on black outs, tax breaks, or public funds for stadiums? NFL is oneof the biggest businesses, they can manage.

  23. ninerrob52 says: Jul 7, 2013 2:55 PM

    The NFL’s campaign to bring more people to football games is disingenuous. For one thing, only a couple teams have problems filling their stadiums each season, and even then, most of their games are sold out (Chargers, Jaguars, Bills).

    The NFL should call this campaign what it really is, a bid to raise ticket prices to fans of all 32 teams.

  24. reidstinks says: Jul 7, 2013 3:02 PM

    Single game tickets would be affordable and easy to obtain if the teams didn’t “reserve” a huge set of the seats for private entities i.e. StubHub and other ticket scalpers. If EVERY ticket that isn’t purchased by a season ticket holder was available on an even playing field games would remain affordable and available to the average fan. Instead this ridiculous system drives up the cost of the ticket by putting them in the hands greedy scalpers. End that practice today.

    Blackouts are absurd but how about a simple compromise. Pay per view for home games that aren’t sold out. This way the NFL makes up for some of the revenue they lose by people not attending game and home towners can still see their team play for a reasonable price. $75 for the game seems fair. Both the fan and the NFL lose a little bit…the true sign of a compromise.

  25. gb4mn0 says: Jul 7, 2013 3:08 PM

    The real disgrace are the metro areas that fail to generate ticket sales to avoid blackouts. The smallest market team in the league (13 time NFL Champion Green Bay Packers) has the the longest waiting list for season tickets of the entire league.

    The shenanigans that goes one in MN to create the illusion that they sell out every game is a bigger issue than the blackout rule.

  26. taosravenfan says: Jul 7, 2013 3:27 PM

    I moved to NM, but sold my ravens PSL before making that decision. My PSL. Was 3k. My tix were 110/ ticket x 2 and then of course 2 games were worthless exhibition games ( showing my age) , and then I also have the directv package. It was just too expensive. I must say that I wish I could have gone to the home playoff last year. And the atmosphere at ravens stadium is CRAZY foe almost every game. It’s a great experience, but with. 60 inch HD tv the vision is much better.

    I foresee the day when all games will be ppv and then watch the screaming in congress.

  27. soweveill says: Jul 7, 2013 4:15 PM

    The problem the NFL is having now is a product of its own success. Many people love the NFL so much that they go spend thousands of dollars on HDTV’s, surround sound, bbq’s, etc. Now as much fun as tail gate parties are, you can have one in your man cave for a fraction of the price without having to sit and watch 3 plays of live action then wait for a tv timeout at the stadium.

    Fantasy Football is great for fans and is turning millions of people onto football. Great for the NFL but most people care more about thier fantasy team then the home team. Redzone channel is like 5 bucks a month and a great way to follow the NFL if you don’t wanna watch the 2 (possably 1) game that is on local tv. The NFL maid billions selling the rights to direct TV but at the cost of losing out on all the other cable providers.

    Now as smart as the NFL thinks it is they are failing to cash in on the current technologies. Smart phones and the internet. They where on top of it when satalite radio was new coming out and charging 15 bucks a month to be able to listen

  28. soweveill says: Jul 7, 2013 4:18 PM

    on the raido but haven’t made any smart phone apps that let you watch the game of came out with a way to watch it online other then a replay the next day for 40 bucks a year. Also so many websites stream the games for free in HD that makes the direct tv package useless. All these things came after the blackout rule and the nfl just isn’t keeping up with the times imo.

  29. vmannj says: Jul 7, 2013 4:32 PM

    We, the consumers, have no one to blame but ourselves. Lifting the blackouts increases TV revenue. Buying tickets lines the owners’ pockets. Buying jerseys gives the players power. Prices are set according to demand. When the prices go up, we keep paying. The only way to reverse the trend is to stop feeding the NFL machine. Why would an NFL owner look down on a sold out stadium filled with beer-drinking, jersey-wearing fans and feel the least bit sympathetic? It’s an investment, and they’re making money. It won’t change until the consuming public makes it change.

  30. cav2ya says: Jul 7, 2013 4:37 PM

    In today’s day and age, when we have so many other things to warrant our attention, so many other outlets for media.. iphone, ipads, phone, computers, xbox, ps3, Netflix, Vimeo, Amazon Prime, MLB.tv, the NHL app..etc.etc… Don’t you think it’s time the NFL got it’s act together and opened up?
    Closing up to only the select few (1%) that can afford going only creates more of a rift.
    Someone mentioned about about creating fans… you certainly aren’t going to make fans by NOT letting them see the games.. That’s about the most backwards way of thinking.
    NFL need to follow the MLB.tv app, it’s awesome.. Cause, i don’t like watching 31 other teams on Sunday, and having to pay for that is just GREED, or Directv.

  31. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 7, 2013 4:41 PM

    Nixon was a Patriots, and Belicheck was his disciple.

  32. swagger52 says: Jul 7, 2013 4:54 PM

    Obama should impose a “football” tax. We pay for the NFLs place of employment, their parking lots, their monopoly, etc. Obama is good at imposing taxes, what is one more?

  33. johnnyjagfan says: Jul 7, 2013 5:04 PM

    Nixon’s tapes show real passion for football. I can’t see the wisdom of the old Rozelle days where there was no desire to be on TV. Guess the didn’t know what would happen with that then-new medium? Nixon had a hard time with TV himself vs. Kennedy & the TV campaign was born.

    Where a news team covers the team, there’s public interest to the extent that an effort should be made to televise on that station’s network or another local station. They should pay fair market value for it, which is handsome.

    Sunday tickets isn’t that cheap, but it’s worth it. If you go to bars for games not on your local station during the season you’ll easily blow past the Ticket’s cost.

    I have season tickets to the Falcons & see a couple Jag games a season. I don’t buy food at the Falcon games and don’t tailgate. We eat at home, drive down and park. I do pay for the pricey beers, but I have accepted it. Parking is $15-$20 and since it’s usually about $10-$12 in downtown ATL, I don’t care.

    Sure glad my wife loves going to NFL games. That helps!

  34. blazertop says: Jul 7, 2013 7:18 PM

    The NFL couldn’t care less about any of this. They are running a tax exempt 9 billion dollar industry that has leapfrogged MLB and the NBA, and shows no signs of slowing down. Look at the disaster with the replacement refs….didn’t make a dent in the league… It’s a snowball going downhill, and the Commish and owners know it.

  35. bobnelsonjr says: Jul 7, 2013 7:38 PM

    No coincidence that Brian Murphy is a writer in Minnesota where the the vikings took the reduced revenue option and avoid embarrassing blackouts by only selling a fraction of their tickets.

    Any team that cannot sell out their stadium does should not be given any sympathy because they are just freeloaders on the backs of more dedicated franchises.

    It is curious that this blog will not name the few franchises like the vikings and Raiders that continually have trouble selling all their seats.

    The reduced revenue option gives additional revenue to the teams who travel well like the Packers, Steelers, and Cowboys.

    The blackout situation has already been solved.

  36. adoombray says: Jul 7, 2013 8:07 PM

    this isn’t even the issue that matters. a 9 billion dollar operation doesn’t deserve to be tax exempt. Publicly funded through tax dollars? no tax exemption. Give back what you get.

  37. alonestartexan says: Jul 7, 2013 8:27 PM

    The NFL is making $11 billion a year in PROFIT, They need to reduce their ticket prices and fans will show up!

  38. brownsalwaysrebuilding says: Jul 7, 2013 8:47 PM

    I just don’t buy that working people can’t afford to go to a football game.

    I’m a young homeowner who works full-time and goes to college full-time. I can afford to go to games here and there and I make crap for cash until college is over.

    Most stadiums will let you bring food and stuff in, at the Browns stadium you can bring a gallon-size ziploc bag full of stuff in with you for free. On stubhub you can go to regular season games for 20-30 bucks per ticket… and preseason games for as cheap as 2-4 dollars per ticket. The Browns stadium is one of the cheaper ones but still, you can find a way to get to a game without it killing your wallet. Just think a little bit.

  39. nyangl23 says: Jul 7, 2013 9:28 PM

    Last time I went to an NFL game at giants stadium my dad had gotten the tickets as a gift so no ticket charge. However, to park cost forty bucks and you had to take two short bus rides to get to the stadium.( for forty bucks i want valet) I bought a hot dog & a pepsi with no refills for 17.00. No thanks!

    Now on the west coast, tried to go to a chargers game and the deal was if you wanted to go to the broncos game you had to also buy tickets for the game next week versus the chiefs. ( What kind of deal is that? again no thanks)

    I see tickets on sale for 150.00 bucks in the cheap seats is there no way to make them even semi reasonable ?

    Direct TV NFL sunday ticket is a much better deal for me.

  40. beachsidejames says: Jul 7, 2013 9:52 PM

    At the very least preseason game prices should not be full price. 2 preseason games are a mandatory purchase with a season ticket package and with parking for 2 seats is approx 250.00 per game. At 500.00 for those 2 games alone is just not right.

  41. badintent says: Jul 7, 2013 11:16 PM

    Sorry boys, but Nixon had a big pair. Still waiting for Odrama to grow some.Nothing will get done. If Nixon was in office he would have told the IRS to do audits on all the NFL owners. Obama has the IRS doing reviews of his political opponents.
    Nixon took US to decon 4 during 1973 Middle East war to let the Russians know to back off.
    Odrama pissed off entire South America chasing Snowden, forcing civilian plane to turn around. I could go on all week.And for Commish Pete, that idiot told Joe Namath he had to sell his stock in a nightclub or resign from the Jets.When a man can’t go to get a young scotch and a blonde after a game, you know NFL was screwed.

  42. justintuckrule says: Jul 7, 2013 11:39 PM

    I for one hope the nfl continues on this path. The quicker they self destruct (it will happen based on simple economics), the sooner a much better, fan friendly, hard hitting league will rise from the ashes.

  43. greenmeattruck says: Jul 8, 2013 1:34 AM

    If the public puts in one dime on the stadium, no blackouts should be allowed, period.
    These millionaire & billionaire owners get their arse’s kissed till they’re chapped to the point of the public paying the majority of cost for the stadium, and then the profit goes to the owners.

    What other business owners get that kind of privilege?

  44. greenmeattruck says: Jul 8, 2013 1:38 AM

    Here’s another idea- outlaw the rules like the purple queens in Minnesota have that if we Packer fans wanna buy tix to see our team beat theirs, we have to buy them in a special “package” that has to include one other regular season or two preseason games.
    That’s not a package, it’s a turd.

  45. puckthefackers says: Jul 8, 2013 5:12 AM

    Once again, Packer fans feel the need to show the world their whole backsides.

    Everything has changed. Absolutely nothing’s changed.

  46. padraighansen says: Jul 8, 2013 11:20 PM

    Here’s part of the problem – the NFL’s blackout policy is infinitely better than MLB’s policy. Just look at MLB’s arrangement with Fox – if you aren’t in a market that is showing the Fox game you’d like to watch, it’s not available on Extra Innings or MLBTV because of MLB’s blackout policy. Some fans are in 6-7 “home markets”, and with local TV contracts now getting so big….it’s going to be worse for MLB. Seriously, the NFL’s policy isn’t bad relative to the other sports.

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