Green Bay Packer fans might be able to breathe a little easier about watching Packers’ playoff games from their homes this winer. According to a story from the Hollywood Reporter, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously chose to remove the football blackout rule, which allows the NFL to blackout local games from television if not enough tickets are sold. The blackout rule almost resulted in Green Bay Packer fans being unable to watch the Packers’ playoff game last year as Lambeau Field ticket sales were down due to the frigid temperatures that were expected for the game. While the unanimous vote pulls the government mandated authority for the blackout rule, it does not prohibit the NFL from arbitrarily enforcing it. However, it does put pressure on the league who has consistently hid by the rule when choosing to black out games. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are trying to push even further with the introduction of the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (FANS) Act, which would not only end the NFL’s voluntary practice of blacking out games, but would also remove the league’s antitrust exemption. The removal of the antitrust exemption could have far reaching implications on future television contracts because it would take away the NFL’s ability to negotiate television contracts as a league, instead forcing teams to negotiate individual contracts.
Jason Fixelle is the Sports Highlight Editor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2016).