POLITICS: PennAve

Sen. Richard Blumenthal: NFL should nix blackout policy

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Sports,Congress,NFL,PennAve,Sean Lengell,Television

Sen. Richard Blumenthal has called on the National Football League to end its "arcane" TV blackout policy and pressed Congress to pass legislation to make it illegal.

"The threat of a blackout is itself both injury and insult" to fans, the Connecticut Democrat said Friday in a prepared statement. "The NFL and other sports leagues that enforce blackout policies should not be rewarded with special regulatory status, antitrust exemptions and taxpayer subsidies."

The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts on Friday sold their remaining tickets ahead of their home playoff games Saturday, ensuring the contests will be broadcast on local TV. And the Cincinnati Bengals' home game this Sunday is approaching a sellout, helped in part by the Kroger grocery company announcing Friday it had purchased a "large quantity of tickets."

But Blumenthal said NFL fans shouldn't have to depend on a "corporate white knight" to buy out a stadium to ensure games are shown on TV.

On Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called the potential blackout of the Bengals playoff matchup with the San Diego Chargers "unacceptable at a time when the price of attending games continues to rise and the economy is not yet where it needs to be."

Under the NFL's policy, teams must enforce blackouts in the home team's primary media market if at least 85 percent of seats aren't sold within 72 hours of kickoff, though the league sometimes grants extensions if teams are close to selling out. The NFL hasn't blacked out a playoff game since 2002.

Blumenthal and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have cosponsored legislation that would do away with the 1970s-era Sports Blackout Rule.

"I call on Congress to combat these anti-consumer policies," Blumenthal said.

The Federal Communications Commission last year released a petition calling for the agency to open up the blackout rule for public feedback, the first step in repealing the regulation.

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