(Editor's Note: Brian Frederick runs the Sports Fans Coalition and is a blogger for SBNation.com. He's trying to end the NFL Blackout Rule, and is here to explain how you could help)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans have been forced to endure more blackouts in the last few seasons than any other NFL team’s fans. This past season, five of seven games played in Raymond James Stadium were blacked out. Since all of the games were blacked out last season, that makes 13 of 16 games. The situation may seem hopeless for Bucs fans who can’t afford to go to the games, are unable to go, or simply would rather watch at home. But a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission could lead to the end of blackouts.
After a petition from Sports Fans Coalition and some other groups, the FCC agreed to the first review of its blackout rule since it was adopted 36 years ago. The FCC’s action was a major victory in itself, as the NFL had lobbied hard to prevent the agency from even considering an action.
Basically, the league have their own blackout rules that dictate what games local broadcasters can show. In the case of the NFL, the blackout rule is simple – games must be sold out within 72 hours of kickoff or the game isn’t shown locally. But the FCC has a rule on its books that says that if a local broadcaster is prohibited from carrying a game, then cable and satellite companies are as well. So in this case, the NFL is asking the government to step in and prop up its blackout rules. We’re just asking the government to step out. Why should the government be in the business of blackouts in the first place?
Anyway, the FCC is asking for public comments between now and February 13. That means that the government is actually listening to you – but time is running out to make noise. And we’re going to need to make a lot of noise to combat the army of high-powered lobbyists and lawyers the NFL is going to bring in to convince the government to keep blacking out fans.
So here’s what you can do:
1. Visit EndBlackouts.com, where we make it super easy to submit comments. (The FCC’s website is here if you’d rather do it yourself, but it’s somewhat difficult to use. The proceeding number is 12-3.) We’ll compile all the comments and submit them at once.
2. Ask your friends and family to submit comments. Again, it’s a numbers thing, so the more fans who weigh in, the better our chance of getting something done. Send out a mass email, post on Facebook pages, visit other Bucs blogs, etc.
3. Contact the local media and ask them to cover this and make sure they understand what’s at stake.
4. If you’re really motivated, we’re starting up a Tampa chapter of Sports Fans Coalition and could use some help. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve got the NFL on their heels. Now we just need to finish the game. And it’s going to take all of us to do it. They may have the money, but we have the numbers. Let’s make some noise!