To Tallahassee and Back: NFL Blackout Ban Relaxed

Professional sports in general, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in particular, are two examples of how legislative pressure helped force change on national football policy.

The Florida Legislature often has an impact on aspects of our daily lives that one would not normally associate with state lawmaking. Professional sports in general, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in particular, are two examples of how legislative pressure helped force change on national football policy.

Until recently, the National Football League had a longstanding rule that required the broadcast blackout of  games in local markets if the respective hometown’s stadium was not sold out 72 hours before kickoff.  The NFL is the only professional sports league that had such a blackout policy. Originally enacted to boost the sale of tickets, the rule has probably brought more harm than good for both the team and the fans, especially during tough economic times.  When the cost of a pair of tickets to a Sunday game is out of reach for most Floridians, the blackout rule resulted in the alienation of many fans as well as a negative impact on the local economy.

During the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, fans have passed many Sundays unable to watch that week’s gridiron action.  Considering the fact that most professional sports teams in Florida receive public funding, there is an implicit right that the public have the ability to view games played in those stadiums supported by tax dollars.

In the fall of 2011 Senator Fasano filed legislation that would have imposed a fine on any sports franchise in the state that did not sell out any given week’s game.  The proposed $125,000 fine per blacked out game would have been collected and used to purchase game tickets for underprivileged children, military personnel, foster children and others who may not normally be able to purchase tickets.  Although the bill did not ultimately pass, its impact was felt nationwide. 

Adding fuel to a fire that was spreading throughout many football markets, the legislation helped shine a spotlight on the local football market.  The Federal Communications Commission began an investigation into the blackout rule earlier this year. The NFL finally responded earlier this summer with a decision to relax its blackout rule.  Rather than requiring a complete sellout, the league decided to give each franchise the ability to drop its ticket sale threshold to as low as 85%.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just announced that it would drop its minimum sales level to that amount, much to the relief of football fans throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Professional sports not only provide a pleasant diversion from the stresses of daily life, they can be an important economic engine for a community that is fortunate to have a team of its own. Bucs fans will hopefully have more opportunities this fall to watch their hometown team play. With more access to games, businesses affiliated with football should see a boost in their bottom lines, which ultimately helps strengthen the economy through more jobs, products and services.

I welcome your questions about the legislative process, state government or any related matters.  Please feel free to leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them in an upcoming post.  If there is a specific topic you would like me to write about please let me know as well.  I look forward to responding to your comments!

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joe lynn September 09, 2012 at 12:51 PM
85% did not work. Senator Fasano needs to move this legislation forward. for all the reasons stated in this article.
Greg Giordano September 10, 2012 at 12:49 PM
It is a disappointment that the first game of the season was blacked out, especially considering that the blackout threshold was lowered by the NFL. At least in this instance the rule change did not benefit anyone. I was speaking with a Carolina Panthers fan over the weekend who lived in that town for quite a awhile. She told me that the Panthers owners routinely purchased unsold tickets to give to military service members and others who may not otherwise afford them, thus guaranteeing that all fans get to watch every game whether live or on television. For whatever reason our hometown football team doesn't seem willing to do the same. I will gladly share your comment with the senator. Thank you for taking the time to follow-up with me. I welcome other thoughts on this issue as well.


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