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Bengals Blackout Potential Draws Senator’s Ire

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The possibility of the National Football League blacking out wildcard playoff games in home markets is drawing the ire of lawmakers.

For instance, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is concerned that the Cincinnati Bengals’ home game against the San Diego Chargers won’t be seen in local markets because of unsold tickets at Paul Brown Stadium. That’s pursuant to a longstanding NFL policy.

“While the FCC’s recent unanimous vote to eliminate the Sports Blackout Rule is excellent news for fans and taxpayers across Ohio and across the country, the NFL should do everything it can to ensure that the Cincinnati Bengals’ Sunday playoff game is not blacked out,” Brown said in a statement Thursday.

Brown is one of several lawmakers to highlight the move by the Federal Communications Commission to do away with the regulation that allows the NFL to impose local blackouts for its games. Just last month, the FCC took the first step in the process of eliminating the rule.

Senators on both sides of the aisle lauded that action.

Arizona Republican John McCain and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal have pushed a joint campaign against the rule, with McCain saying in a statement that the rule “is no longer supported by facts or logic.”

The pair has also offered legislation that would, among other things, eliminate the antitrust exemption enjoyed by professional sports as it pertains to local TV blackouts.

Part of the argument against the NFL blackout policy is that in many cases, including in Cincinnati, taxpayers paid for large portions of stadium construction.

This week, there have been reports of possible blackouts due to unsold tickets for the wildcard playoff games in three of the four cities hosting games: Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Green Bay, Wis.

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