It’s been an ugly offseason for the NFL and its teams when it comes to public relations. The Washington Redskins have bungled their attempt to defend their racist name, the Baltimore Ravens have completely botched their handling of the Ray Rice debacle, and now the league itself has launched a graceless effort to defend its television blackout policy.

Just check out, a website which — as Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio points out — “carries no NFL logos or trademarks or other copyrighted materials, but with a privacy policy that links directly to”

Florio also notes that the league has initiated somewhat of a camouflaged PR campaign by enlisting former stars — like Lynn Swann on a local Detroit sports show — to plug the fact that fans “can watch [football] on free over-the-air television” thanks in part to the blackout rule.

“The blackout rule helps support that, and it supports our broadcast partners,” Swann said last week on WXYZ. “A full stadium means enthusiastic players, enthusiastic fans. It means the announcers are enthusiastic. Everybody benefits all the way around.”

I have no doubt that full stadiums are better than non-full stadiums, but what sort of proof do we have that the blackout rule has done anything to help fill seats? If you can’t afford tickets, you can’t afford tickets. This isn’t about people being lazy.

The website itself is a propaganda machine. It mentions, on several occasions, “pay-TV lobbyists” who “want to change the rules to charge fans for football games.”

“While every other professional sport has moved to pay services like cable or satellite, the NFL makes every regular-season and playoff game available to you for FREE.”

It’s a comical approach, because the reality is that NFL games are on “free TV” because they’re so valuable that the major, non-cable networks own the rights to every game — even those shown on ESPN and NFL Network via local affiliates.

As Florio points out, “there’s no actual connection between preventing the local broadcast of games absent a full stadium and protecting the ability to televise of games on free TV.”

Don’t be sucked in by the straw man.

Attendance is already fantastic — only six teams have been blacked out since 2010 — but the NFL empire is trying to suck the blood out of every last customer by ensuring that nobody messes with a policy that barely even boosts the bottom line in the first place.

The NFL will be available for free indefinitely, regardless of whether the blackout policy is in place. This is merely another example of the league trying to bully anyone and anything in its path, even if it’s about ego more than money.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.

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