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NFL tiptoes around report of blackout loophole

Neil Best of Newsday recently reported that NFL teams have a little-known option for avoiding blackouts. Per Best, the home team can pay 34 percent of the face value of the remaining tickets.

As we pointed out on Friday, this loophole can create P.R. problems for NFL teams who are trying to get fans to fork over their shrinking discretionary income for the leftover tickets at a time when the home team can simply write a check to guarantee that the game will be televised locally.

We asked the NFL whether Best’s report is accurate. And here’s what spokesman Greg Aiello said: “Teams are required to sell out the general admission tickets for the blackout to be lifted. Visiting team share, which goes into a pool divided equally among all teams, is based on tickets sold. Teams on occasion when they are near a sellout have worked with sponsors or other business partners to guarantee a sellout and a blackout lift.”

As to the question asked -- is Best’s report accurate? -- the response wasn’t “yes” or a “no” or a “neither.” And implicit in Aiello’s response arguably is a concession that the process of “working with sponsors or other business partners” at times includes the home team writing a check to ensure the lifting of the blackout.

And we can understand why the league would be tight lipped on this point. If some teams, like the Buccaneers, are choosing to give up a piece of their profit in order to ensure that the game will be televised in the Tampa area, fans in other markets might wonder why the home team isn’t willing to do the same thing.