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  • Writer's pictureKurtis Tatkenhorst

November 12- Judge Grim rules in Favor of the NFL's new Blackout Policy

1953- On this day in Sports History, a United States district judge ruled for the National Football League to be allowed to blackout football games in their local market. Judge Allan Grim made the ruling in the U.S. district court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 12, 1953.

Today, the NFL has television contracts that are worth multi-billion dollars and allow each game to be broadcast to millions of fans around the world. Obviously, it was not always like this and television has come a long way. The first NFL game to be televised was in 1939 when NBC broadcasted the Philadelphia Eagles and Brooklyn Dodgers game to 1,000 television sets in New York City. It eventually then progressed to where in 1950, NFL franchises began to be able to broadcast all their games, home and away, to their fans at home. This began a problem as the gate revenue was the NFL’s major revenue source at the time and fan attendance dropped significantly as home football games were broadcast in their local markets. For example, in 1949 there were no home games televised and the Los Angeles Rams averaged about 50,000 fans a game. The next year, home games were televised in the Los Angeles area, but the Rams averaged only about 29,000 fans a game. Thus, the “blackout” rule came into effect.

By 1953, the NFL was already in the courts and earned a ruling from Judge Grim that allowed them to “black out”, or not televise any home game in the local NFL team’s market. The NFL deemed it necessary to force fans to come to the game if they wanted to watch the game as they needed the gate revenue to sustain the team. At the time, if fans wanted to watch their local NFL team play, they had to pay for a ticket and go to the game.

The NFL’s blackout rule has since changed with the times. In 1973, Congress passed a law stating that any game that was a sell out within 72 hours of a game would have to be broadcast on local TV. Then, as NFL sellouts became the norm, black outs became less frequent. Between 2005 and 2014, there were less than 10% of games blacked out each season. Also, with T.V. rights becoming much more lucrative than ticket sales, it made the black out ruling become outdated.

In 2015, after facing pressure from Washington D.C and the Federal Communications Commission, the owners voted to end their blackouts for the season. They have since voted this way every season to date so now local NFL fans can watch their team play on T.V.

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Williams, J. (2012, February 17). Time for the NFL to End the TV Blackout Policy. Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from

Pramuk, J. (2015, March 24). By shelving blackouts, NFL makes Uncle Sam happy. CNBC. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from

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