AFL-CIO joins NFL in supporting blackout rule

During the 2011 lockout, the NFLPA raised eyebrows by currying the favor of unions whose employees make a lot less money than pro athletes.  Three years later, the strange bedfellows routine has gone even farther, with the NFL and the AFL-CIO joining forces on a relatively unpopular political issue.

In a letter dated August 26, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka urges the FCC to keep the sports blackout rule in place.

“The current broadcast rules promote full stadiums, which provide jobs and incomes for the working people we are proud to represent, and they promote free over-the-air television, on which many working people rely,” Trumka writes.  “We have seen all other sports migrate away from the free over-the-air model and are concerned that eliminating the Sports Blackout Rule may make the NFL leave free over-the-air television as well.”

The good news is that Trumka, unlike the NFL, doesn’t blame the situation on “Pay TV lobbyists” or other bogeymen who would force the hard-working men and women of America to pay for the privilege of watching NFL football.  The bad news is that Trumka has decided to perpetuate the disingenuous notion that, if the blackout rule goes away, the NFL will change its broadcasting model to pay-per-view only.

That’ll never happen, for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, the removal of NFL football from free broadcast TV would spark an outrage from the public even bigger than the Ray Rice backlash, resulting in the immediate drafting of legislation that would strip the league of its broadcast antitrust protection.  In turn, the league would be forced to allow teams to cut their own TV deals, Notre Dame-style.  Some teams would make billions and others would make millions and others may be relegated to local public access.  The ensuing competition for dollars and product exposure would make the maximum audience that comes from a broadcast network very attractive to some teams, possibly sparking a bidding war among multiple franchises for the privilege of being the official team of ABC, FOX, CBS, or NBC.

Trumka’s other argument — that full stadiums generate more money for the people who work there — has some merit.  But people who choose to stay home at watch the games on TV will also be utilizing goods and services that are provided by working men and women, from beer to food to color TVs to emergency plumbing services, thanks to Uncle John and his chimichanga habit.

It’s a coup for the NFL, which previously found support for the position only when hiring people like Lynn Swann to parrot nonsensical talking points.  With the AFL-CIO behind the effort, maybe the league has a chance at preventing or delaying that which seemed inevitable.

16 responses to “AFL-CIO joins NFL in supporting blackout rule

  1. “That’ll never happen, for a variety of reasons.”

    It’s already happening. This season will be the first time a playoff game will not be broadcasted…it will only be available on pay-TV.

    It happened with the NBA: zero playoff games are broadcasted, only the Finals. It happened with the MLB: I haven’t seen a single game of my home team on broadcast television for years.

    If the league office is given any advantage to get their games behind a pay wall, it would be foolish to think that they won’t do it.

  2. @slugbaitspace, What NFL playoff game are you talking about? Don’t just throw it out there, name it.
    I don’t often agree with Mike Florrio, but this time he’s right on the mark.

  3. im sure the stadiums would be alot more full if they drop ticket prices a little bit and dont charge your 20 dollars for a hotdog and beer lol

    havnt been to a game in 6 years. easier on the wallet.

  4. fanasaurus says:
    Aug 29, 2014 2:47 PM
    @slugbaitspace, What NFL playoff game are you talking about? Don’t just throw it out there, name it.
    Go back to the post by Mike Wilkening on April 22, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT.

    Or enter “nfl playoff cable only” at google’s website.

    There will only be two markets where the game will be broadcasted, and both markets are the teams of those markets. All other markets must have a cable subscription.

  5. Pay per view is already in progress. See the NFL Ticket. People slowly dropping cable and satellite as these costs are escalating….somewhat due to what these stations are paying the NFL for the rights to NFL and college games. New generation watching tv on Roku and Netflix. Eventually the networks won’t pay the NFL what it wants because it won’t be able to make this up with advertising, even if it promotes other programs on it’s station. NFL will be left holding it’s only option…. Pay Per View Only. Have to wonder if it’s at this point that fans start moving to Soccer….yes, I said it. I personally won’t but alot of sports fans will.

  6. I’m not sure people would hound Congress if the NFL went to cable. I may be mistaken I suppose but how many people watch TV ‘free over the air’ instead of cable or via sat? I ask because I don’t know a single person that uses ‘free over the air’.

    Now if they were arguing that the NFL would go ‘Pay per View’ I can see how that would probably be false.

  7. It forces people to go to stadiums where they can get shook down for personal seat liscenses, super high parking and concession fees, and tax-payer funded stadiums. Sooner or later, someone in Congress is going to be a hero for breaking up the blackout rule.

  8. gadgetdawg says:
    Aug 29, 2014 4:55 PM
    I may be mistaken I suppose but how many people watch TV ‘free over the air’ instead of cable or via sat? I ask because I don’t know a single person that uses ‘free over the air’.
    I have a ClearStream C4 antenna. Looks much nicer than the classic rooftop or DB4 antennas, and pulls in signals great. I bought it right after my cable company scrambled the Limited Basic channels last year…which occurred one week before the preseason games began.

    I have a couple of HTPC machines, and my cable company designed their descramblers so they would be incompatible with my machines. Plus, they wanted to charge me $7 per month, per descrambler ($16 per month per TV if I wanted their vastly inferior DVR). So, no more cable.

    OTA signals have considerably less compression than cable, resulting in a better picture and vastly superior audio quality. And if the cable company has an outage, I’m still watching TV. I don’t get ESPN or NFL Network, but a bunch of TNF games are simulcasting to CBS this season, so my life got just a little better this year.

    You may not know many people using OTA, but the cord-cutting movement has been gaining steam over the last few years.

  9. Now that Trumka has come out for the Blackout Rule, I’m against it

    I second that motion.

    Dude looks like Captain Kangaroo on acid.

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