Thursday, October 30, 2008

congress weighs in

Think things are going to be easy for the commish for the remainder of this year?  He still hasn't entirely followed his promise crack down on player behavior, he has a couple of owners who are acting in their own - and not the leagues - best interest, and these new deals with "personal seat licenses" shift the balance of power to teams that have and sell them.   Plus, you still have the pending labor issue.
And now, there's this:
Leahy tackles NFL's policy on TV games

October 30, 2008

MONTPELIER – A group of U.S. Senators, led by Patrick Leahy of Vermont, are petitioning the National Football League to allow the free broadcast of more games in larger areas.

"I have talked to the commissioner about this," Leahy said. "When we have the Patriots based in our home area we at least ought to be able to see their games over the air. People drive from all over Vermont to go to a Patriot's game."

Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee which has butted heads with the league over the issue before, would like Vermont to be considered part of the New England Patriots home area for television broadcasts.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican who has worked closely with the Vermont Democrat on many issues and was the head of the committee when the GOP had a majority in the Senate, would like the Pittsburgh Steelers games to be broadcast more widely. The other members of the Senate who signed on with Leahy and Specter's letter – including Vermont's Independent Bernard Sanders – have similar wishes in their states.

The question is how large an area is defined as a team's home – and therefore able to receive network broadcasts of the games – and what is considered outside that area and therefore only able to watch the contests through cable television.

It is not the first time Leahy and Specter have gotten involved in the issue. Last year the two senators successfully pushed the NFL to broadcast more games, and the league did broadcast the final regular season game between New England Patriots and New York Giants more widely. That game ended up with the largest audience ever watching a regular season broadcast NFL game, Leahy said. "More than 34 million people reportedly watched the game – the largest audience for a regular season game in more than a decade, and more than three times the largest audience an NFL Network game has ever received," the senators wrote in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The league did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

"They were able to do it before," Leahy said. "I don't see any reason they can't do it again."

The federal anti-trust laws give the Judiciary Committee jurisdiction over the matter. But he hopes it does not come to that, Leahy said.

"I don't want to come in with a sledgehammer. I would like them to just do what is right," Leahy said.

It might seem like a small thing – whether Vermonters who don't get cable television can watch football – in a week in which Leahy has co-authored a letter with Specter on the qualifications the next U.S. Attorney General should have.

But residents stop him in the grocery store and in airports to talk about how they should be able to watch the Patriots, Leahy said.

"The most important thing is that I am a Vermonter and I represent Vermonters," he said.

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