The NFL's original television blackout rule dates back to an act of Congress in 1961 and was more clearly defined in the early 1970s. Under that rule, home games couldn't be shown on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if nonpremium tickets weren't completely sold out 72 hours before kickoff. In 2012, the NFL allowed teams the option of calling games "sellouts" at 85% capacity and keeping them on local television. That minor change successfully shifted blame for blackouts from the NFL to individual owners, but guess which two teams mentioned above didn't take that option?
Teams including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers all teamed with sponsors to exploit an NFL loophole allowing them to buy back tickets at a third of the price and give them away to charity to keep games on the air. They realized that fans hate blackout and are less inclined to help teams out with tax dollars when they can't watch games.
However, with the Spanos clan bent on a new stadium and the Bills' future in Buffalo in doubt after owner Ralph Wilson's death and the continuation of the Toronto Series -- which sacrifices one Bills home game a year to the Rogers Centre in Toronto -- owners and fans in both towns have had to face one of the NFL's most absolute truths.
2. Stadium politics still extorts big bucks: Never mind that the average price of an NFL ticket has jumped by $20 since 2006.
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Taxpayers who live around 30 of the NFL's 31 stadiums have paid a much steeper price for their teams in tax dollars. It cost an average of $525 million to cover each of 20 NFL stadiums built since 1997, according to a Minnesota study looking into the likely costs of a new stadium for the Vikings. The study says that 56% of those stadium costs or roughly $238 million per stadium were paid for with public funds. That's nearly $4.8 billion in tax dollars spent on NFL stadiums alone, but economists estimate that continued costs including maintenance, infrastructure and renovations dip into more tax money and force the public to pay upwards of 70% of a stadium's cost.
That count isn't going down as stadiums go up, either. At least $115 million in public funds are going into the new San Francisco 49ers facility, Levi's Stadium, opening in Santa Clara this year. Minnesota is on the hook for about $500 million of the proposed $974 million Vikings stadium planned for 2016. In Atlanta, where the Falcons' Georgia Dome is a scant 21 years old, the city has already pledged $200 million toward a proposed $1 billion stadium.