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Senators threaten legislative action to fight NFL’s “blackout” rule

For all the talk about partisan gridlock, senators from both sides of the aisle can agree on at least three things: life, liberty and the pursuit of televised football.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have rose in opposition to the National Football League’s “blackout rule,” which bans home games from being televised locally if the games haven’t sold out at the stadium. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Blumenthal led, McCain testified against the rule.

“This is an issue that must be addressed by the league itself; and, if the NFL fails to show leadership, then through congressional action,” said McCain. “It is clear that blackout rules fail to serve their original stated purpose, which was to increase stadium attendance and improve the viewing experience.”

While the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously in October to eliminate the blackout rule, the decision only removed regulations. The vote didn’t actually end all blackouts, which are written into the league’s contracts with broadcast and cable companies.

We “urge the NFL to view this as an opportunity to recognize that unpopular blackouts are no longer justified in today’s environment,” wrote Blumenthal and McCain in October.

In addition to asking the NFL to rescind the “blackout” rule, the senators listed benefits the NFL already receives including antitrust exemptions and special tax status.

Today’s collaboration is a continuation of Blumenthal and McCain’s 2013 introduction of the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (“FANS”) Act.

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