CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals jumps over Eric Hagg #84 of the Cleveland Browns to catch a pass and make a first down at Paul Brown Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Nowehere is the NFL's outdated "Blackout Rule" less popular than in Cincinnati. While the debate of ticket prices and reasons for lack of fan attendance at Paul Brown Stadium continue, the truth is that many loyal Bengal fans in the greater Cincinnati area are punished by the NFL and are not able to watch home games on TV. Never were the cries heard louder in Cincinnati about the blackouts than in 2011, especially with the team having a success with surprise appearance in the playoffs.
You can debate all day as to whose fault it is for the lack of sellouts in Cincinnati, but the root of the blame starts with the NFL for having this rule in place. Well, according to Steve Watkins of The Business Courier, The Federal Communications Commission is currently "reconsidering" the NFL's unpopular blackout rule.
One of the figures leading the charge against the NFL and this rule is Ohio Senator, Sherrod Brown (we're fairly sure that he's not a member of "The Family"). As we touched on before, Brown was an advocate of eliminating this rule as it was in effect in the Cincinnati area for six of the eight weeks that the Bengals played a home game. Brown used the platform of "the loss of millions of dollars to the team and local TV stations" as his attack against the NFL.
Senator Brown's efforts seemed to have paid off, as the FCC is now involved:
Brown’s office said his urging prompted the FCC to say it will release a petition aimed at opening the sports blackout rule for public feedback. That’s the first move in the process to overturn the regulation. The NFL had 16 blackouts this season, down from 26 in 2010.
"We are one step closer to ending the blackout rule," Brown said in a news release. "Today, the FCC announced that it would begin taking public comment on the blackout rule, an outdated rule which is unfair to the teams, the fans, and especially the taxpayers. Although the Bengals season ended last week, I’ll keep fighting to repeal the blackout rule."
Again, of those 16 total blackouts this season, six were from the Bengals alone--and that doesn't include the miracle "two-for-one" effort that the Bengals front office put into effect for the final home game against the Ravens. That would have been blackout number seven, leaving the Pittsburgh game as the only true PBS sellout in 2011.