Specter Wants to Revisit NFL's Antitrust Status

Associated Press
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).

· BEARS: Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who made the Pro Bowl a year ago in his second year, could miss the remainder of this season with a severe hamstring injury.

Harris left Sunday's game against Minnesota in the third quarter with what was originally announced as a sprained left knee. On Monday, Chicago Coach Lovie Smith said the injury was not season-ending.

But yesterday, Smith said the hamstring injury was more severe than the knee sprain and that Harris was slated to go to Dallas to see a specialist.

· PANTHERS: Quarterback Jake Delhomme missed practice again yesterday with ligament damage in the thumb on his throwing hand, increasing the likelihood that backup Chris Weinke will start Sunday against the New York Giants.

Carolina Coach John Fox said the ligament is stretched and not torn from the bone, which is why Delhomme doesn't need surgery. Fox didn't rule out the possibility that Delhomme, who is listed as questionable, could play Sunday.

Running back DeShaun Foster, who has missed the past two games with a hyperextended elbow, practiced and remains probable.

· BILLS: Safety Donte Whitner is questionable after he hurt his hamstring in practice, leaving Buffalo potentially minus another defensive starter when it plays the New York Jets this weekend.

Cornerback Terrence McGee and running back Willis McGahee missed practice for the second straight day with ankle injuries. Both are listed as questionable.

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