Fed up with the blackouts that are now plaguing their team, San Diego Chargers fans are fighting back. Thanks to the NFL's blackout rule requiring home games to be sold out at least 72 hours before kickoff, the rest of the Chargers' games this season are expected to be blacked out. Before this season, the Chargers had had 48 consecutive sellouts.
So some Chargers fans have launched an organization called Stop Charger Blackouts. They're asking fans and local businesses to contribute anything they can to a pool and once they've raised enough to buy the remaining tickets to a game, they will do so and donate the tickets to local charities.
It's an inspiring act. And one that should be totally unnecessary.
Chargers owner Alex Spanos should be the one buying those tickets and giving them to charity. Under NFL rules, team owners can purchase unsold tickets for 34 cents on the dollar and give them to charity. Stop Charger Blackouts, meanwhile, has to pay full price.
But Spanos must need every penny. After all, he's only the 365thrichest American, worth $1.1 billion. And if the Chargers really are costing him money -- highly doubtful considering that the team that he bought for $74 million in 1984 is now valued at $907 million -- then he should open up the books and show us. But he and the other owners refuse to do that.
Spanos is not alone. Bucs owner Malcom Glazer is the 136th richest American, worth $2.6 billion. And despite getting the city of Tampa to build him a brand new stadium less than 15 years ago, he won't buy his team's unsold tickets (for a fraction of the face value) and give them to charity. So Bucs fans will also likely miss the rest of their games on TV.
The blackout rule is archaic and ultimately counterproductive. Why wouldn't an owner want as many people to consume his product -- regardless of how -- as possible? And is there a worse time to start blacking out games than when the team is losing and the economy sucks? (The Chargers are now 2-5.) The Chargers are already testing their fans' loyalty with their play on the field. They don't need to make things worse by making the games totally unavailable to them.
Fortunately for Spanos and the Chargers, there are still some diehard Charger fans like Kyle McCarthy, who founded Stop Charger Blackouts. McCarthy confesses that everyone in San Diego has been really excited about the organization, but that donations haven't come in as quickly as needed. (Sounds familiar.) But maybe McCarthy and his friends can put enough pressure on Spanos to get him to buy the tickets or at least sell the tickets to Stop Charger Blackouts for the discounted charity rate.
Meanwhile, how about a Stop Buccaneer Blackouts? And a Stop Raider Blackouts? Better yet, how about Sports Fans Coalition starts a chapter in every city in America to address the blackouts and other local issues? (We're working on it -- if you're interested in being a chapter chair, drop me a line.)
With enough pressure on the ground from fans and Sports Fans Coalition's pressure on the FCC and elected officials here in DC, we can finally put an end to the sports blackout rule.
Not that we should have to.
Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and lives in Washington, D.C. Email him at email@example.com.