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18 March 2010

Holsman Sends Message to the NFL

JEFFERSON CITY, MO - State Representative Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, announced today that as more states join in the effort to help overturn "broadcast blackout" policies in professional sports leagues, he has officially sent word to the NFL asking them to reconsider what Holsman describes as "antiquated policy."

Holsman, along with New York Senator Kevin Parker, Pennsylvania Representative Brendan Boyle, Michigan Representative Joel Sheltrown, and Speaker Pro-Tem Lori Saldaña of the California Assembly, have filed - or in the process of filing - bills which would pull public funding from professional sports franchises that have games blacked out due to league policies.  Elected officials from other states, including Ohio, Florida and Indiana, have also expressed interest in the bill.  While the bill would apply equally to any sport, the most prominent league with such a policy is the National Football League, which will not allow local television stations within 75 miles of a stadium to broadcast games if the home stadium is not sold out.

Holsman contends that the NFL's policy hurts local businesses, such as sports bars and restaurants, and unfairly punishes low- and middle-income families who pay taxes to support teams and stadiums, even if they are unable to afford tickets to see the game in person.

"Even in a 2-14 season, the final Kansas City Chiefs home game broadcast was the number one show on television in Kansas City by a wide margin.  Watching sporting events on TV is a social event for some and a family event for others.  Whether it's a group of coworkers from St. Louis watching a Rams game at a local restaurant, or my family watching a Chiefs game in our living room, blacking out a broadcast of a football game in a stadium that the taxpayers built is both disappointing and disengaging to the fans of Missouri's sports teams," said Holsman.

A copy of the letter from Representative Holsman to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can be read below:

Missouri State Shield

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

My name is Jason Holsman, and I represent the 45th district in the Missouri House of Representatives. Earlier this month, I filed House Bill 1986, which makes any professional sports franchise ineligible to receive public funding if that franchise is subject to a broadcast blackout due to a league-wide policy. This bill, if it becomes law, would obviously impact the NFL and teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams. I am writing to explain why I proposed this bill and why I believe that reform of the existing broadcast blackout rule is important.

The NFL's rationale for the blackout rule is simple: If games are not televised, fans will be forced to buy a ticket and attend games in person. This rationale is shortsighted and ignores economic reality. Our country, and in particular my constituents in Missouri, are hurting financially. At this time, many football fans - including die-hard fans like me - simply cannot afford to buy a ticket and attend the games. Rather than pressure fans to buy tickets, the blackout rule actually prevents fans from watching their teams altogether. The unintended consequence of the NFL's policy is to reduce viewership, upset fans, and potentially reduce the fan base. It is for these very reasons that Major League Baseball does not predicate their blackout policy on ticket sales.

The blackout rule is bad for already-struggling local economies. When games are not televised, fans stay home and restaurants and bars lose out on revenues from Sunday and Monday night crowds. Local television affiliates lose out on advertising revenues, as do advertisers whose commercials never air. Team merchandise sales fall, and that hurts local retailers as well as the NFL team franchise.

NFL teams receive millions of dollars of public assistance from state and local entities each year. The Kansas City Chiefs, my team, receives $3M in annual state appropriations, $2M annually from Kansas City, and $3.5M from Jackson County. These dollars are in addition to a one-time $25M tax credit from the State of Missouri for relocating the Chiefs training camp to St. Joseph, MO, and in addition to the revenues from a 3/8 cent sales tax which funds $250M worth of renovations to the Arrowhead stadium, constituting a significant amount of taxpayer money, and taxpayers deserve something in return for their investment.

For these reasons, I filed H.B. 1986. If passed, H.B. 1986 will preclude any professional sports team, which is subject to a broadcast blackout, from being eligible for public funding in the following year. I also drafted an amendment to this bill that guarantees existing, legally-obligated subsidies, tax levies, and contractual agreements, to the extent any exist. This bill only applies to future public assistance.

A national movement is underway to get sponsors onboard from various state legislatures. Based on my discussions with legislators from around the country, similar legislation has been, or will soon be, filed in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and several other states. Over the next few weeks, we will announce more states that have joined this effort as more states file bills similar to H.B. 1986. It is my hope that the NFL and franchise owners will take this issue seriously, and decide to reverse the blackout rule at the next executive meeting.

Please understand that the aim of this bill is not to hurt the NFL or its teams. That is not my goal. I simply want a square deal for the taxpayers. I support providing NFL teams with taxpayer subsidies, but seek to protect the taxpayer's return on investment.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with me further about this issue, please call my office at (573) 751-6607.

Best Regards,

Jason R. Holsman
State Representative - District 45
Missouri House of Representatives

The Hon. Kevin Parker, Senator - New York State Senate
The Hon. Lori Saldaña, Speaker Pro Tempore - California State Assembly
The Hon. Franklin Sands, Minority Leader - Florida House of Representatives
The Hon. Joel Sheltrown, Member - Michigan House of Representatives
The Hon. Brendan Boyle, Member - Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Billy Devaney, General Manager - St. Louis Rams
Denny Thum, President - Kansas City Chiefs
L. Kent Gaines, Lobbyist - Kansas City Chiefs
Sports Illustrated
ESPN The Magazine
Sporting News
Kansas City Star
St. Louis Post Dispatch

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