Sen. Sherrod Brown to NFL: Don't blackout the Cincinnati Bengals

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An Ohio lawmaker is pushing back at the National Football League's threatened TV blackout of the Cincinnati Bengals home playoff game Sunday with the San Diego Chargers, calling such a move "unacceptable."

"The NFL should do everything it can to ensure that the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday's playoff game is not blacked out,” said Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in a prepared statement Thursday. "This [potential blackout] is unacceptable at a time when the price of attending games continues to rise and the economy is not yet where it needs to be."

Brown said that because fans, through local taxes, often help pay for new NFL stadiums, "they should be able to cheer on their local teams, especially during the playoffs."

The Cincinnati Enquirer has reported that Bengals executives don't expect to sell out the game at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, which the senator said was built with $450 million of taxpayer money.

The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed to eliminate the Sports Blackout Rule, a 1970s-era regulation which allows the NFL to blackout broadcasts of a local sports game when the game doesn't meet a sellout threshold.

At the urging of Brown and other members of Congress, the FCC has released a petition calling for the agency to open up the rule for public feedback, the first step in repealing the regulation.

The NFL hasn't blacked out a playoff game since 2002. Under the NFL’s policy, teams would enforce local blackouts if at least 85 percent of seats were not filled within 72 hours of kickoff.

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner