September 28, 2012   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues, NFL

CYCLE CONTINUES: Tampa Bay Bucs Black Out Fans for 21st Time in Last 23 Games

The Tampa Bay Bucs once again failed to sell enough tickets to Sunday’s game and failed to buy up the remaining tickets to ensure the game stays on television resulting in one giant FAIL for Bucs fans.

The Bucs owners either 1) don’t actually care about their fans or 2) don’t realize that they’re only exacerbating the waning interest in their team by continuing to black out game after game or 3) both. There’s just no logical explanation for withholding your product from your fan base for four seasons running.

As for the NFL, well, they’ve already proven they don’t care about all NFL fans for the first few weeks of the season, so why should they care about Bucs fans specifically?

September 27, 2012   |No Comments Blog, Issues, NFL, Uncategorized

VICTORY! NFL Owners Cave to Public Pressure, End Referee Lockout

Our long national nightmare is over. According to multiple reports, the NFL referee lockout is over. The regular officials will reportedly take the deal Thursday night and on Sunday.

The pressure from fans and the public to end the referee lockout seems to have been so intense that NFL owners finally figured out a way to get a deal done after 48 hours of relentless flogging over their use of incompetent referees. Fortunately, for fans around the country, the rest of the season won’t be tainted the way the first four weeks have been. Hopefully, the controversy in Seattle won’t come back to haunt the NFL come playoff time.

Most importantly, fans should not forget that NFL owners were willing to (again) disrespect them by lockout out key employees and putting out a sub-par product. Fans should remember that NFL owners care about their bottom first and foremost. If fans are even a concern — and some owners certainly don’t care about fans — they are a low priority.

September 26, 2012   |No Comments Blog, Issues, NFL, Uncategorized

More Media Reaction to NFL’s Replacement Ref Debacle’s Kevin Seiftert: Weak NFL response suggests more of the same
Key quote: The NFL repeatedly has played us for fools over the past two months.

Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins: NFL replacement refs’ incompetence solely the fault of the league
Key quote: Let’s see: The count in the NFL is now one ripped-off earlobe, one case of knocked unconscious for 10 minutes, one utter Monday night travesty and five coaches who have gone all “Jerry Springer Show” on incompetent officials.

St. Louis Post Dispatch‘s Bryan Burwell: NFL is official a mess
Key quote: This is the height of the owners’ arrogance and surely symbolic of what will ultimately be the first paragraph of the commissioner’s legacy.

Newsday‘s Bob Glauber: Blown call Monday night an embarrassment for NFL
Key quote: With replacement officials botching the final play of a game that could mean the difference between making the playoffs and being shut out of the postseason, the NFL is risking the integrity of its brand and the loyalty of its customers.

And then there’s the cover of the New York Post:

September 25, 2012   |3 Comments Blog, Issues, NFL

Packers Shareholder Calls for Federal Fraud Investigation into NFL’s Use of Replacement Referees

Tuesday afternoon, Sports Fans Coalition Chairman and Green Bay Packers shareholder David Goodfriend called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the National Football League’s “deceptive” use of replacement referees has violated “consumer protection statutes.” Monday night, the Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks on a controversial call many have blamed on the NFL’s use of replacement referees.

In a letter to FTC Chairman Jonathan Liebowitz, Goodfriend wrote that the NFL has led fans to believe that the “officiating of games is conducted at a high-standard, ‘professional’ level. Consumers are led to believe that referees know and understand the NFL’s rules and will apply them objectively, consistently, and accurately.”

In fact, according to Goodfriend, “many of the referees have records of incompetence.” For example, “some of the NFL’s current referees were dismissed by their prior employer, the ‘Lingerie Football League,’ meet the NFL’s own claims of high-level, professional quality.”

The full text of the letter is below or can be viewed here.

Following the game, several in the media criticized the NFL’s continued use of replacement officials. ESPN announcer Mike Tirico, who called the game, said during the telecast that the replacement referees “just cost the Packers the game,” and added,“This is wrong. I don’t feel good about this.”

Goodfriend served in the Clinton White House and founded Sports Fans Coalition in 2009 to give fans a voice on issues like media blackouts, high ticket prices, stadium construction, and college football playoffs. It is now the largest nonprofit fan advocacy organization in the country. In January, Sports Fans Coalition successfully lobbied the FCC to review its blackout rule for the first time in four decades. Just weeks later, the National Football League agreed to revise its own decades-old blackout rules.

September 25, 2012

The Honorable Jonathan Liebowitz, Chairman
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580

Dear Chairman Liebowitz,

The Federal Trade Commission is charged with protecting consumers from unfair or deceptive trade practices. Generally speaking, under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, a commercial entity may not make a representation, omission, or otherwise mislead (or take actions likely to mislead) a consumer.

The National Football League’s assertion to sports fans that it is providing a product of equal quality to prior seasons while using non-union “replacement referees” in the current season qualifies as a deceptive practice worthy of your agency’s immediate investigation.

First, the National Football League (NFL) creates and owns intellectual property – televised football games — that it licenses to distributors and consumers. It asserts that its product is of “professional” quality and that the competition between any given two teams is genuine, not staged or pre-determined by the league.

Second, implicit within this assertion of product quality is the notion that the officiating of games is conducted at a high-standard, “professional” level. Consumers are led to believe that referees know and understand the NFL’s rules and will apply them objectively, consistently, and accurately.

Third, in the context of its current lockout against unionized professional referees, the NFL has hired referees who do not meet the generally accepted standard of “professional” quality. Significantly, many of the referees have records of incompetence. For example, some of the NFL’s current referees were dismissed by their prior employer, the “Lingerie Football League,” meet the NFL’s own claims of high-level, professional quality.

Last night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks was just the latest example of the NFL’s illegal violation of consumer protection statutes. The very commentators
hired by NFL broadcasting partner ESPN to provide play-by-play action to the television audience suggested that the outcome was not legitimate. “The [replacement referees] just cost the Packers the game,” ESPN commentator Mike Tirico said. He continued, “This is wrong . . . I don’t feel good about this.” Tirico’s partner, Jon Gruden added, “I don’t like the way this game finished. I have a bad taste in my mouth.”

In my individual capacity as a shareholder in the Green Bay Packers, and in my capacity as Chairman of Sports Fans Coalition, the pre-eminent non-profit public policy advocacy
organization on behalf of sports fans in the U.S., I urge the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation immediately to determine whether, as asserted herein, the National Football
League has violated federal consumer protection statutes.



David Goodfriend, Chairman
Sports Fans Coalition

September 25, 2012   |1 Comment Blog, NFL, Uncategorized

The NFL Has Been Perpetrating a Fraud on the American Public

by Brian Frederick

The NFL’s fraud has finally been fully exposed. Behind the shield, greed trumps integrity and incompetence reigns supreme.

For months, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spearheaded a public relations campaign designed to convince the public that the replacement officials were qualified to be working NFL games. Even after it started to become obvious that the officials weren’t up to the task, Goodell still held firm.

“These officials have been trained,” Goodell said on August 23 of the replacement refs who have been calling preseason games. “We’ve been working with them. We think they’ll do a very credible job.”

Following the season opening game on September 6, Goodell said: “I think our officials did a more than adequate job last night and I think that we’ve proven that we can train them and get them up to NFL standards.”

The first weekend was then rife with mistakes. See Deadspin’s list of the worst 21 here.

Still on September 12, Goodell said: “Officiating isn’t a perfect science—it’s very difficult to officiate, these guys did an outstanding job, we were very pleased with the performance, and they’re going to get better.”

As any NFL fan can tell you (especially Green Bay Packers fans), the officiating in Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game was clearly not up to NFL standards.

Just how big is the fraud the NFL has been trying to sell the American public? So big that even its loyal business partner ESPN (and other media establishments) can no longer sit idly by without feeling compelled to point out the obvious.

“[The replacement officials] just cost the Packers the game,” ESPN announcer Mike Tirico said following the game Monday night. He added: “This is wrong. I don’t feel good about this.”

All Tuesday morning, ESPN personalities weighed in on the issue and not a single one defended the NFL in any fashion, which is utterly amazing.

All along, the conventional wisdom has been that this lockout would go on until a game was decided because of a poor call or until a player was seriously injured because of poor officiating.

Now that we’ve had a game unfairly decided because of incompetent officials, how long before a player is seriously injured?

Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Email him at and follow him on Twitter here.

September 25, 2012   |No Comments Blog, Issues, NFL

NFL Replacement Referee Situation Finally Costs a Team (Green Bay Packers) the Game

Well, it was inevitable. Sooner or later the replacement referee situation in the NFL was bound to cost a team the game. Unfortunately for Packers fans, it was Green Bay…More to come…

Upset? Sign this and share with your friends: END THE REFEREE LOCKOUT IMMEDIATELY

September 24, 2012   |No Comments Blog, Issues, NFL

NFLPA to NFL Owners: “Your Actions” in Ref Lockout Look “Like Simple Greed”

Over the weekend, the NFL Players Association Executive Committee (which includes Drew Brees and Scott Fujita) sent a blistering letter to NFL owners, calling on them to end the lockout of referees. “We believe there is substantial evidence that you have failed in your obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible,” they wrote.

Props to the NFLPA for calling out the owners, but if things don’t change soon, they’re going to need to take it to the next level.

Here’s the full letter:

TO: Owners of NFL Teams

FROM: NFLPA Executive Committee

DATE: September 20, 2012

RE: Your Lockout of the NFL Referees and the Negative Impact on Football

The NFL Players Association Executive Committee is calling on you to end the lockout of our referees. We believe there is substantial evidence that you have failed in your obligation to provide as safe a working environment as possible.

Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity. This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.

As we predicted and explained to you weeks ago, the removal of the veteran officials from regular season games left a group of your replacements who have proved to be incapable of keeping pace with the speed of the game. Coaches and players have complained of numerous errors and failures including: erratic and missed calls on egregious holds and hits, increased skirmishes between players and confusion about game rules. Many replacements have lost control of games due to inexperience and unfamiliarity with players and rules.

The headlines are embarrassing: a scab working a game despite having been on the payroll of one of the teams, another who was assigned to referee a team he publicly supported on Facebook, and one who is a professional poker player when you propose even more stringent player rules on gambling.

It is lost on us as to how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety yet permit the wholesale removal of the officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety. It has been reported that the two sides are apart by approximately $60,000 per team. We note that your Commissioner has fined an individual player as much in the name of “safety.” Your actions are looking more and more like simple greed. As players, we see this game as more than the “product” you reference at times. You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately.

We are all men who love and respect this game and believe that it represents something beyond just money. For our teammates, our coaches and our fans who deserve better, vote to end this lockout now.

September 21, 2012   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues, NFL

Chargers Blackout Proves NFL’s New Blackout Policy is Flawed

The San Diego Chargers were one of the teams who’ve been plagued by blackouts in recent years, yet opted not to take advantage of the NFL’s new blackout policy allowing teams to lower their blackout threshold to 85% of capacity. Had the Chargers done so, all of Southern California would be able to watch two 2-0 teams battle it out. Instead, thanks to the greed of Chargers owners and the NFL’s flawed blackout policy, the vicious cycle of blackouts continues.

Why did the Chargers not take advantage of the blackout policy? The new policy requires teams that exceed their threshold to give back a larger percentage of ticket revenues to the league.

“Lowering the benchmark to 85 percent would substantially impact our ticket revenues. A team like the Chargers, whose revenues are already limited by an older, antiquated stadium, can’t afford to lose such an import revenue stream,” Chargers spokesman Bill Johnson told NBC 7 San Diego.

While we welcomed any change to the decades-old NFL policy, it’s clear that the new rule is stupid. Why punish teams for lowering their blackout threshold? The new rule seems to be designed to encourage owners not to set their thresholds too low and just sit back and not sell tickets. But what NFL teams are not going to try to increase profits by selling more tickets? It’s absurd.

So it’s understandable why the Chargers would be reluctant to change their policy. But still, why don’t the Chargers buy up the remaining tickets (at 34 cents on the dollar) and GROW their fan base? Probably because their still of the antiquated and erroneous mindset that blackouts work. According to NBC 7 San Diego,  ”Johnston says the NFL’s blackout policy works and is proven to help sell tickets.” In fact, it DOESN’T work. Nine top sports economists have shown that “blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL.”

As long as it costs a family of four $466 to attend just one Chargers game, and as long as the Chargers continue to black out their fans and kill any hopes of building a fan base, expect the blackouts to continue…

September 20, 2012   |No Comments Blackouts, Blog, Issues, NFL

San Diego Chargers, NFL Black Out Fans Throughout Southern California on Sunday

This afternoon, the San Diego Chargers announced they will be blacking out Sunday’s home game against the Atlanta Falcons. The blackout extends throughout Southern California.

The Chargers tried to entice fans into buying tickets for this weekend’s game by offering them the chance to buy tickets to the upcoming Denver Broncos game. Hard to believe that fans didn’t jump at the chance for the right to buy tickets to a game they can buy tickets for eventually anyway.

Keep in mind that the stadium the Chargers play in was fully financed by the public and that they are currently waging a public relations campaign to get the public to pay for a new stadium (…or else they’ll move to LA). And remember that Chargers owner Alex Spanos is the 375th richest American, worth $1.1 billion. He bought the Chargers for $74 million in 1984 and the team is now valued at $920 million. He could easily write a check to cover the remaining tickets (at the special owner rate of 34 cents on the dollar) so the game airs locally.

It continues to amaze us that despite the overwhelming evidence that blackouts don’t work, NFL owners insist on blacking out their fans (many of whom are disabled and elderly), thus decreasing overall interest in the team. The vicious cycle continues…

September 20, 2012   |No Comments Blog, Issues, Stadiums

Washington Nationals Selling Playoff Tix but Still Won’t Pay for Late Night Metro Service

Tomorrow, the Washington Nationals will begin selling playoff tickets to the general public. (Tickets are already on sale for season ticketholders.) Assuming the Nationals win the division (likely, but not certain), they will end up playing Games 3, 4, and 5 in Washington on October 9, 10, and 11 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). In order to attract a large national television audience, these games will likely start late, probably just after 8:30 ET.

At the same time, the Nationals continue to refuse to ensure that the Metro will stay open late for the thousands of fans who will use it for the playoff games. The Metro only runs until 11 pm on weeknights, so it is extremely likely that games will go longer than the Metro cutoff unless the Nationals are willing to pay just under $30,000 per hour to keep the trains running. If they do not, it’s highly unlikely the city will pay. So fans will be forced to choose between leaving a playoff game early or catching the Metro.

Keep in mind that the Nationals are charging nearly double for playoff tickets as for regular season games and that all the games will certainly sell out. Oh, and then there’s the excitement over this team that the Metro issue is only tarnishing.

Dear Nationals, this is an easy decision. You’re going to have to pay for the service anyway. Why not just knock it out of the park now and announce you’ll cover the costs instead of fighting against the city and the public? You have a lot more to lose by continuing to fight this than you have to gain.

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