ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Buffalo Bills are opting out of the NFL's new blackout rules because it would penalize the Bills and other smaller market teams.
The Bills say they need the whole "12th Man" or nothing, 85-percent attendance isn't going to cut it. In making the announcement, the Bills say opting into the new relaxed blackout rules could cost the team as much as a half million dollars in lost revenue.
The new rules would apply to all home games and not just the hard sells. Congressman Brian Higgins, who has been pushing the league to change says, the Bills owed this to some of the most loyal fans in the country.
Rep. Higgins said, "The Bills could have positioned themselves for maximum economic benefit with a move by embracing this as an opportunity. They chose not to do it, that is their business, but I think it is disappointing."
The Bills' decision comes in the middle of lease negotiations with Erie County and the state. A renewal will likely cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and County Executive Mark Poloncarz told News 4 the blackout rule is part of those talks. Poloncarz says he has seen the Bills' books and his priority is keeping the Bills from moving to greener pastures.
"I'm not going to let that happen on my watch. Think about it, if they change the rule but the team moves to Los Angeles, who cares at that point? The most important thing is ensuring they're the Buffalo Bills for years to come," Poloncarz said.
Fans may be disappointed, but the leader of one fan group says the NFL's new rule is a start, though it still pits the big market teams against the smaller market franchises. Matt Sabuda of the Buffalo Fan Alliance told News 4 that with some tweaking, the new rules just might work out.
"Something that would allow the Bills a little more flexibility to air those late December games, which have always been a struggle," he said. "Something along those lines, I think, would be really helpful to the team and the league, and help the Bills grow their brand."
Rep. Higgins says he is asking the NFL Commissioner to tweak the blackout rules to level the playing field for smaller market teams.
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