The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only team in the National Football League (NFL) to have all eight of their home games blacked out this season.
Taxpayers shelled $168 million for Raymond James Stadium, but an archaic league rule states that they can not watch their team’s home games on TV unless a sellout is confirmed 72 hours before kickoff.
The NFL should nix blackout policies nationwide.
The Bucs announced last month that they would reduce the price of thousands of 2011 season tickets. Some adult tickets will cost as little as $35, hopefully boosting sales and preventing further blackouts.
That’s a start, but the NFL must go a step further and change policy or recognize that it has no right to use profit from publicly funded stadiums when those who funded them cannot see the games.
The economic crisis has forced families to cut back, with the Bay area currently facing an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Families who can’t pay their mortgages will likely not buy tickets to see a game, putting Tampa in a dangerous position for sales and in-stadium turnout.
According to Team Marketing Report, an average family of four would spend $390.80 to buy four average-priced tickets, four small soft drinks, two small beers, four hot dogs, parking, two game programs and two adult-size caps at Raymond James Stadium. Even if that same family scored the lowest-priced tickets, jumped on the Park-n-Ride and fasted for the duration, they would still be out more than $100.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio asked the NFL to reconsider its policies this season, pointing out that an average NFL ticket costs nearly 10 times the hourly minimum wage.
But the NFL’s blackout policies aren’t just unfair, they don’t even make sense. Many fans had no idea how well the Buccaneers were doing early this season because the games were not televised. It is ridiculous for a team that is struggling financially to have to snub its fan base. Absence won’t make their hearts grow fonder, nor will punishment win their affection or cash.
Forbidding supporters from watching the games on TV will not force them to buy tickets. When financially feasible, fans attend games for the sense of community and unity that is felt while cheering on the home team. The NFL is the most popular professional sport in the U.S. fear that attendance would drop if the blackout policy disappeared is completely unfounded.
It is time for the NFL to pay back the taxpayers and reward its fans. Lifting the blackout policy in these trying times would be the perfect way to start.
Lydia Harvey is a junior majoring in mass communications.