Yesterday, millions of people tuned in to to see the opening games of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, thanks to NFL broadcast rules, fans who watch on TV won't be able to see future home games if the stadiums for those games aren't filled to capacity. State Rep. Brendan Boyle wants to change that. He's introduced legislation to prevent these professional sports teams from blacking out coverage on television.
Why would state government have any say over when football games appear on TV? Both teams, which are among the most profitable in the National Football League, have gotten a big assist from taxpayers in recent years.
The Eagles and Steelers received a combined $160 million from the state's taxpayers to help finance the teams' new stadiums. The Pittsburgh Steelers received $75 million from the public to help build Heinz Field, which opened in 2001, while the Philadelphia Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003 with the help of $85 million in taxpayer funds.
It's important to note that Boyle's bill would only impact future subsides and wouldn't apply to the money that taxpayers have already given to both teams. If the Eagles and the Steelers continue the blackout policy, they would not be forced to return the money they've already gotten.
Since both teams have sold out all home games for this season, this isn't likely to be an issue this year even if Boyle's bill passes. However, the proposal does aim to send a clear message to professional sports franchises that taxpayers won't simply hand over large amounts of taxpayer dollars without getting anything in return. There need to be strict rules that accompany these subsidies, or they're nothing more than corporate welfare.
Of course, we can't help note that Boyle's bill isn't exactly a broad-based return for investing hundreds of millions of dollars into these sports teams. Really, the idea of eliminating blackouts only benefits football fans. In the future, we hope lawmakers will take up reforms that ensure that subsidies positively impact the entire state.