TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida lawmaker wants to end all television blackouts of NFL games played in the state.
Republican State Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey filed a bill (SB 836) Friday requiring Florida's three National Football League teams to televise all home games whether they're sold out or not. The NFL franchises are in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa, where the Jaguars, Dolphins and Bucs rank 26th, 28th and 31st respectively in attendance among the 32 NFL teams.
Fasano's bill would fine teams $125,000 for each game that is blacked out locally. The money, he said, would go to be used for buying tickets to give to military personnel and their dependents, foster children, nonprofit organizations and others who can't afford to pay for a ticket.
"The blackout policy has been in place for five decades and remains very important in supporting the ability of the clubs to sell tickets," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Friday. "Playing in full stadiums with thousands of fans is an important part of what makes NFL games exciting."
McCarthy, who noted that all NFL games were blacked out locally before 1973, said the NFL remains the only sports league that broadcasts all of its regular-season and playoff games on free television. He said there has been just seven blackouts out of 130 games played this season.
Fasano's proposal applies to all professional sports franchises using facilities that receive tax dollars.
The NFL policy applies to stations within a 75-mile radius of where the game is played if all tickets are not sold 72 hours in advance of kickoff
"It's unconscionable that they black out a local game when the owner could easily step up to the plate and either give those tickets away or purchase tickets to make certain they (fans) get to watch their home team on television," Fasano said. "This is a message to the owners, 'You're making tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars each year, it's time to give something back,'"
Fasano said he was particularly troubled that fans are denied the opportunity to see their favorite teams at a time many can't afford the price of a game ticket.
"We are sensitive to the economic challenges," McCarthy said. "NFL teams have been responsive and have worked to help fans purchase tickets, instituting installment payment plans and other programs."
Florida's Legislature has approved measures in recent years that provide professional teams with a $60 million tax credit over a 30-year period in efforts to attract or keep franchises in the state.
"All of them get a check for $166,000 each month," Fasano said. "There should not be blackouts when the taxpayers foot the bill."
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