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Why Tampa Bay Bucked NFL Blackouts

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- As the volume of the debate surrounding the National Football League's blackout policy has increased in recent years, perhaps no NFL team has been mentioned more frequently in that discussion than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Between 2010 and 2012, just five of the Bucs' last 24 home games have been shown on local television thanks to a league blackout policy dictating that games not sold out 72-hours ahead of kickoff be blacked out by stations broadcasting within a 75-mile radius of the home team's stadium. In this case, that building is Tampa's Raymond James (RJF) Stadium, which was the only NFL stadium built within the last 20 years by using only public funding. Simply put, both Tampa-area Bucs fans and non-fans alike were being prevented from watching games played in a $168.5 million stadium they paid for.

Despite a revision to the blackout policy last year that allowed teams the option of keeping a game on local television if just 85% of nonpremium seats were sold -- an option the Buccaneers organization accepted, the Bucs ranked 31st among 32 NFL teams in average announced attendance (55,102) and percent of stadium filled (83.9%).

This season, the team is off to an 0-4 start. Josh Freeman, who began the season as the Bucs starting quarterback, is now with the Minnesota Vikings after being granted his outright release -- with the Bucs still paying a large portion of his salary. The man who ushered Freeman out the door by benching him, head coach Greg Schiano, has also angered star cornerback Darrelle Revis and chafed other members of the team with his brusque coaching style.

But no matter how many people show up in Tampa for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles or how ugly the result is on the field, Buccaneers fans are guaranteed a televised home game. In fact, the team's owners are buying up any unsold tickets under the 85% attendance threshold and keeping the Bucs on local television for the rest of the season.

While the Glazer family of owners can't currently vouch for the quality of what fans will be watching, their active role in preventing home-game blackout is 2013 is worth rooting for.
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