The NFL recently responded to mounting political pressure regarding the outdated blackout rule by punting the hot potato to the teams.
On the surface, there was cause for celebration. The league now allows teams to reduce their minimum percentage of non-premium tickets from 100 to 85 in order to allow games to be televised in the local market.
The fine print, in a word, sucks. Each team must use the same percentage for every game, and the percentage must be selected for the full year by August 9. And if the team does better than expected, the league’s share of each ticket goes from 34 cents on the dollar to 50.
As a result, various teams who would otherwise be tempted to consider the rule have said, “No thanks,” including the Chargers, Bills, Browns, Colts, and Jaguars. Only the Buccaneers have to date embraced the new rule.
Now, some of the same politicians who pushed the league to relax the blackout rule are now seeking a relaxation of the relaxation.
Recently, Congressman Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell suggesting that each team receive two waivers per year, to account for games in which ticket sales exceed the selected minimum.
The league has yet to make any changes to the changed blackout rule, but Representative Higgins believe that change eventually will come.
“You look at the changing economic model, the blackout just doesn’t make sense,” Higgins said, via WIVB. “I’ll tell you something, you mark my words, in five years there won’t be a blackout rule because the economic model is changing, and continues to change.”
Higgins may be right, but it will happen only if pressure continues to be applied to the league by politicians, fans, and the media. The fact that the league relaxed the rule proves that the pressure, to date, is working.