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For the ink-by-the-barrell platform of Washington City Paper, I wrote this week about the origins of the NFL’s blackout policy. That rule allegedly requires games to sell out before they can be broadcast in the host market. Turns out the Redskins were as responsible as anybody for getting that policy put in place. Legendary Skins Coach George Allen even took personal credit for the blackout rule. Pick up a copy, read the column, wash your hands.
Color me crazy, but I’m beginning to think the league’s gotten all loosey goosey in its enforcement of the blackouts.
But things weren’t always that way. Looking over the old newspaper clippings about the genesis of the policy in the early 1970s, when Congress first forced the NFL to air sold out games in host markets, I was reminded that management used to view TV as the enemy. In fact, time was when NFL owners even tried to rig things to look like games weren’t sold out — Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose once put hundreds of lousy field-level seats on sale close to gameday hoping they wouldn’t all be bought — just to keep football off of television.
Things have changed. The blackout rule is still on the books. Nowadays, however, it sure seems like there’s all sorts of looking the other way going on so that non-sold out games won’t be blacked out.
The Redskins games, despite what the team tells you and what some trusting souls believe, are not sold out.
Dan Snyder, in fact, likes to say in press releases that the games have been sold out since 1966. Yet anybody who looks into the situation for more than a few seconds should realize that the Redskins don’t sell out home games. It’s almost a certainty, in fact, that the Redskins haven’t sold out even a single game during Snyder’s 11-year reign as owner.
The Club Seats, at the very least, have been available to anybody with a checkbook since FedExField opened in 1997, so anybody who parrots the team’s sellout streak line after seeing a sea of yellow seats show up on TV screens for more than a decade is a tool.
But the non-sellout status of the stadium has never been so obvious as of late. And we’re not just talking about premium seats being available now, folks.
No, just a week before the incredibly hyped opening game with Dallas, the Redskins are rolling out last-minute seat-filling gimmicks as coupling their general admission season tickets with college football games held at FedExField, putting various ticket giveaways in place and offering discounted tickets to employees of giant corporations and dumping more and more Cowboys game tickets on the market.
So when tickets are up for grabs at face value from the FedExField box office next Sunday, as they are at every home game , and the Redskins/Cowboys game is nevertheless on TV in the D.C market, you’ll know the NFL now knows TV, and not the live gate, is its best friend.