Judiciary Chair Threatens NFL Antitrust Exemption

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) says he plans to introduce legislation taking away the NFL's antitrust exemption.

Pointing to the NFL's exclusive satellite deal for its Sunday Ticket package of games, the move of Monday Night Football to cable, moves to seed its NFL network with regular season games, and hearkening back to franchise moves like that of the Colts to Indianapolis, Specter said the NFL is building a case for the removal of the antitrust exemption it was granted by Congress in 1961.

Specter introduced legislation some two decades ago to condition that exemption on limits of franchise moves.

Take away the exemption, he said, and the market will take over, a market, he says, which has demonstrated its wisdom.

That pledge, and he made it forcefully, came during a hearing on cable and sports rights Thursday, a follow-up to one last month in which Specter had some tough things to say about the NFL.

At that hearing, Specter raised the specter that the league might have violated antitrust laws in its move to seed its NFL Network cable network with regular season games. He also opined about the exclusive satellite deal for Sunday Ticket.

In Thursday's hearing, a n angry Specter said that NFL franchise moves and the disruption they caused had been a case of "fans be damned," and that the current programming issue was one of  "consumers be damned."

Introducing a bill does not mean it will go anywhere, and Specter will be turning over the chairmanship to a Democrat come January, but it was still a big stick to shake at the league.

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