September 27, 2009, - 1:24 pm

No Fun League: NFL’s Out-of-Touch Blackout

By Debbie Schlussel


As readers know, I’m a vehement supporter of the free market.  That includes corporations’ right to be boneheaded and drive themselves out of business.


In this case, the boneheaded move is the National Football League’s “blackout.”  Problem is, the NFL has no chance of going out of business, since it’s basically an illegal anti-competitive collusion of several corporations (i.e., teams) that all abide by its silly policies.  And the government stands by and allows it.

The NFL blackout–in which teams aren’t allowed to broadcast home games on television if the game isn’t sold out by a certain time a few days before the game–is in effect, today, in Detroit.  Like the rest of the country, Detroit is in desperate economic times, but it’s hit far worse than the rest of the country.  We’re talking post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans conditions. People can’t afford tickets, no matter how cheap. And that’s not to mention $20-$40 for parking.

People can’t afford to buy tickets.  You know, the same people who financed Ford Field–the palace owned by billionaires, where multi-millionaires go to work a few Sundays out of the year.  Yes, hundreds of millions in Michigan Economic Development Corporation funds went to pay for this stadium, where the blacked-out Lions game is being played today.  MEDC money was meant for a rainy day.  But every day, it’s raining cats and dogs when sports teams and their gazillionaire players come-a-callin’ (in this case it was the Lions ownerFord Family, but the MEDC paid for most of the billionaire Ilitch family’s Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play, too).  And the poor working stiffs who financed it are “paid back” by being blacked out and unable to see the game.  Yes, the chief sponsors of Taxpayer Field are shut out of the stadium.

It’s time that individual NFL teams get to decide for themselves whether or not they want to show a game.  And time for poor shnooks in trailer parks and middle-class Americans throughout the country to stop financing palatial arenas for sports’ corporate welfare, then get the games blacked out on them because they won’t shell out even more cash to these greedy fatcats.

The NFL blackout isn’t only an anti-competitive violation of anti-trust laws.  It’s insensitive to current economic conditions.  In any other industry (where they don’t have illegal monopolies the government allows and ignores), a business which is insensitive to the times, dies.

Time for the NFL to meet reality.


On the bright side, since the Lions have now lost 19 games in a row, perhaps the NFL is taking pity on Detroiters and sparing them yet more demoralization. But I never attribute such altruism to the No Fun League.

What do you think of the NFL blackout policy?

****  UPDATE:  HA!  The Lions had their first victory in 20 games, today, beating the Washington Redskins 19-14.   I couldn’t care less.  But others in the Detroit area do care and it would have been a nice morale boost for them, had they been able to watch it.

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30 Responses

Maybe Michael Moore has a point after all.

Norman Blitzer on September 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm

What I think, should not be written, but
I do not care what happens to any football
game anymore…or their overpaid players and
their keepers.

cthelight on September 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    You may take some solice if the article I read is correct that 3 or 6 yrs, I forget which, after retirement 75% of the NFLers
    are bankrupt. I don’t know if that is true but not suprising
    if it is.

    Rollie Robinson on September 27, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I don’t like the blackout policy, it really sucks not being able to see the home team. The NFL should lift this policy because the people who live in the blacked out areas contribute to the teams financial success in one way or another. But in the past few years there haven’t been that many blacked out games. However, you can always catch games on the web.

Do you know why Flint, Michigan doesn’t have a pro football team? Because Detroit would want one too.

Jarhead on September 27, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Well, Debbie, it really did suck to not have TV coverage…OF THE LIONS’ FIRST WIN OVER WASHINGTON 19-14!

Bob Porrazzo on September 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm

And what about all those People and/or Establishments that pay their hard-earned money for the Direct TV NFL Ticket, and are still obligated to these fascist blackout rules set forth by the NFL??? The NFL brings in a fortune from the Direct TV NFL Ticket Deal. Just like State’s Rights (10th Amendment), the NFL should have to abide by the same laws.

Yiddish Steel on September 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm

hey debbie get out the rabbit ears because the lions game was on fox station out of lansing. my cousin in ann arbor hooked up the old outdoor antenna and pointed west and guess what they were watching lions football. what game did they have on instead vikings /49ers in a who gives a crap to fill tv space instead of infomerials , YOU SUCK FOX AND THE NFL!!!!!!

pnamarble on September 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm

As long as some people pony up and pay these overpaid millionaires will continue to take the money and make you pay up to watch… If only the talent I have of laying on the couch in my underwear would pay….Gee go see them and pay or stop looking at them. It’s a choice that people make and they find the money somewhere to do it. It’s just like giving hollywood your money…You DO NOT have to do it. But thankd God we live in a society that allows us to collect on a talent. I love ya Deb, but stop whining or stop watching…If enough stop watching the team will fail and some oter city can take them over…Well unless the Government bails them out….sigh…

Dusty on September 27, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Is it just me or does football seem boring. I used to look forward to football season. I’ve tried to watch three games and couldn’t finish. Just changed the channel.

Maybe all the chaos in our country has got my priorities aligned. Who knows?

I never liked the blackout idea. Seeing it the way Debbie does makes me dislike it even more. Football is an escape for many and to black it out is pathetic.

To Norman, Michael Moore is a traitor.

USMC on September 27, 2009 at 8:09 pm

The NFL are clearly being spiteful bastards because they couldn’t sell out a game, but I have little sympathy for the fans who keep coming back for more despite the obvious contempt they are held in by the teams.

tempus fugit on September 27, 2009 at 9:06 pm

As if I don’t have enough stuff to be pissed off about.

Joe on September 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm

the jew roman Polanski just got busted for raping a 13 year old in the 70’s. DS is defending the child molester.

Jeb W Bush on September 27, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Dear Mr. Bush: Just exactly where does Ms. Schlussel defend Roman Polanski?

    Miranda Rose Smith on September 29, 2009 at 4:42 am

There should never be a blackout. In addition to it being immoral, it’s bad business when you are denying access to tens of thousands of fans in order to move a few thousand seats. They had this problem in Chicago with the Hawks doing the same thing. When they removed the blackout, attendance went UP.

Babu on September 28, 2009 at 1:04 am

Unfortunately, it wasn’t blacked out here in VA and I had to watch my beloved Redskins lose to the Lions. A very sucky day, indeed. But, if you want to talk about bad owners…

Blayne on September 28, 2009 at 8:02 am

Move the team to LA. I definetly do not have a problem with blackout rule.

madman on September 28, 2009 at 8:47 am

the new issue of Time Magazine has a cover story about Detroit. Only looked at the cover, wouldn’t bother actually reading their liberal rag. It is investigating what went wrong to cause the cities collapse.

My first thought was that the people of Detroit elected drug dealers, pimps and thugs to all their city government offices to cause the problem. But I am sure that will not be Time magazines answer, in the end the liberal media will find a way to play the race card and blame whitey for their problems.

ender on September 28, 2009 at 9:25 am

Hopefully the little guy wins in the upcoming American Needle vs NFL supreme court case.

Chad D on September 28, 2009 at 10:38 am

It violates our antitrust laws.

goldenmike4393 on September 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I think the blackout rule is a good rule. I do share some of the same gripes about the NFL really being Socialist welfare entities because they get most of their football stadiums financed by taxpayers. However I could see why they need a blackout rule because they want full stadiums. Not really for the money but for the PR. These teams could turn a profit not based on the tickets but the marketing and television contracts. The league wants to see as many seats filled because once a league has empty seats then it gives the indication the team is lost. I do give the league a lot of credit for marketing and revenue sharing. Revenue sharing is socialist but it keeps teams like Green Bay and Detroit (in theory) competitive. Markets like Green Bay, Tampa, Buffalo and Detroit might never compete with New York if revenues aren’t shared.

By the way those Detroit Tigers might bring a title to Detroit if they don’t choke on those Twinkies….err Twins this week.

CaliforniaScreaming on September 28, 2009 at 3:07 pm

The taxpayer funding of stadiums is something I do not support. It is widespread and overpromises the benefits…like…uh…Casinos anyone?

This ‘public financing’ of private entities for ostensible public good did not fare so well for the proletariat in the KELO decision, where the parcel of land remains undeveloped but the homeowners were removed.

The NFL negotiated a deal that works well for them…for now. So has the UAW, but times have changed, and all you need is one catalyst to throw the best laid/negotiated plans to rest.

FLIPSIDE: Metro-Detroiters would have loved to see this game, even in spite of the many barren seats in every section of Ford Field. I experienced the game from Club Level, 2nd tier. There were about a dozen people in this otherwise exclusive seating area (about 200 seats). Many other ‘Club Sections were also nearly empty. The Lions needed a win, they also needed to beat the Redskins, which they have not done since the Pleistocene. So it wasn’t a bad Sunday.

P. Aaron on September 28, 2009 at 3:27 pm

These blackout are the perfect opportunity for fans to realize the NFL (for that matter MLB,NHL,NBA) do not care about the fans. The tickets are all set up to be sold to corporations, professional partnerships,and sponsors with PRE TAX DOLLARS. A fan buying tickets with taxed employee dollars is paying way more than the person attending on the company tab.

Once the NFL helps fans realize pro football is not that important by blacking out the games and giving them the opportunity to follow/do something else – then they will be begging you to watch again. Don’t buy into it until season tickets don’t have discounts from single game prices. Refuse to pay $20 to park your car. Don’t pay $12 for a beer. Wise up and don’t let these super secretive families (corporation for the most part are not allowed to own NFL franchises- to much taxes and to much information disclosure) are able to hide the huge profits they are gouging from brainwashed over marketed “fans”.

Here is Los Angeles we really do not miss the NFL – we watch on TV and love not having to support a local monopoly idiotic owner – formerly Al Davis, Carol Rosebloom/Georgia Frontiere.

Spend your time and money more wisely and don’t get marketed into thinking you have to care about some 8-8 team that has not done anything important for 15 years. Your life will be better.

Use your time to go to get better grades and then go to college athletics. At least some of that money goes to education and the local university. You get good seats cheap for being a student. That is the way to go.

Randal P on September 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm

“…..Moral boost for Detroit……”


Why do they need one in the first place?

Everything should be milk and honey.

After all:

Who’s been running Detroit city gov’t and the school system there? **For a long time**

Hint: Same peeps that have a loser bail out, tell execs how much they can get paid, suck up to the unions program at the national level.

Election have consequences indeed.

Sam Adams on September 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Mazel tov on the big win, Debbie. It looks like your rookie QB may be a playa. As far as the blackouts go, I think it’s safe to say the league knows how to make money and they wouldn’t have them if it didn’t drive profits. The teams actually do need to put tushes in the stadiums, and without the threat of a blackout a lot more people would be tailgating in their own driveways.

A1 on September 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm

And yet not one person…not even the conservative goddess, have brought up another solution to catching the game:

LISTEN TO IT LOCALLY ON THE RADIO!!! (if you live in Detriot or DC that is)

Squirrel3D on September 28, 2009 at 10:04 pm

The NFL,like all professional sports is entertainment, when you complain about the salaries the players make (average life span in the NFL=less than 5 years), are you also complaining about the millions of dollars that Hollywood stars make for one movie? Do you go and see Tom Cruise ($25 million per movie) or Tom Hanks (about the same)? Do you complain about the outrageous price of popcorn and soda?
You write as though the people of Detroit have some inherent right to see their team on TV. They don’t. The league policy is simple, if the game is sold out you can show it on local TV, if it’s not, you can’t.
In every case of public funding for a stadium that I am aware of the local voters approved the issue. Now the fact is that they usually stick the out of town traveler, like me, with hotel taxes, rental car taxes, etc. to pay the bill (I always appreciated Houston because the tax printed out on my receipt as a “stadium tax”).
If you don’t like it don’t watch but the cries for “special treatment” ring pretty hollow.

MIckeyG on September 29, 2009 at 12:31 am

What is the LOGIC, the REASONING behind the blackout rule? Because not enough people want, or can afford, to come to the stadium, the whole country can’t watch the game on TV?

Miranda Rose Smith on September 29, 2009 at 2:45 am

Sorry I am coming to this late but I am in agreement, the blackout rule is discriminatory against locals who are unable to purchase tickets. I would volunteer this suggestion–make owners fill the seats every week and if they don’t, the NFL charges the owners a set amount for each empty seat. The league would lose no money and every game would be broadcast and the owners would have fits about having to pay for empty seats so they will make absolutely sure they get fans into them.

You can bet that by Friday, if the NFL is charging the owners $15 per empty seat, the fan will be able to buy the same seat/ticket for $14.

Legalmantt on September 29, 2009 at 8:36 am

A lot of people do not realize that the NFL used to black out all home games whether or not they were sold out in advance. President Nixon signed legislation forcing the NFL to televise games to the home market if they were sold out. By they way Debbie – I had a roommate in college (This was the early 1980’s – I am dating myself) who, like you, was from Southfield. He told me back then that a television station in Toledo Ohio used to televise all of the Lions home games and he was always able to pick up that station.

As for the NFL violating anti trust laws that was almost fixed years ago in the USFL lawsuit. Unfortunately someone really screwed up (lawyer/Judge?) because the jury only awarded a small amount (If I remember correctly it was three dollars) because they incorrectly thought that the judge was supposed to impose the tens of millions of dollars the jury unanimously thought was coming to them.

I_AM_ME on September 29, 2009 at 9:40 am

Nice post. I agree that the league is completely out of touch and blacking out games in one of the country’s poorest big cities is uncalled for. I actually wrote a similar post on my blog about this. I’d love to get your feedback.

Dan McGowan on September 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm

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