Specter Wants to Revisit NFL's Antitrust Status
Friday, December 8, 2006
The NFL's ability to negotiate exclusive sports packages is under fire from the outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) twice said he would introduce legislation in the next session aimed at eliminating the league's freedom from antitrust laws.
Specter said the NFL should not use the exemption to negotiate exclusive programming packages such as DirecTV's Sunday Ticket, which allows viewers to watch teams outside their regional market.
"As I look at what the NFL is doing today with the NFL channel with the DirecTV . . . a lot of people, including myself, would like to be able to have that ticket," Specter said.
But the 1961 law that gives the NFL this freedom should not apply to DirecTV because it is not "sponsored programming," said Stephen Ross, a law professor at Penn State and chair of the school's sports law institute. He said Specter might be using the threat of legislation to pressure the NFL to make changes voluntarily.
Access to out-of-market football games was one of many consumer fairness issues addressed during the hearing. Another hot topic was whether cable providers should be forced to share sports broadcasting rights with every service provider in an area.
David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp., said his company has not made a local Philadelphia sports network it owns available to DirecTV because it is one way his company can stay competitive with the Sunday Ticket package.
"What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," he said.
· HONORS: San Francisco 49ers cornerback Walt Harris was named NFC defensive player of the month for November. Harris, who played for the Redskins in 2004 and 2005, had nine tackles, three interceptions and five forced fumbles as San Francisco went 3-1. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was the offensive player of the month, and Seattle's Nate Burleson was the conference's special teams player of the month.
The AFC's players of the month were San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (offense), Miami's Jason Taylor (defense) and Buffalo's Brian Moorman (special teams).