CINCINNATI -- There will be no local NFL television blackouts in the Tri-State this weekend.
That news became clear Friday afternoon when Bengals officials announced the team's home wild-card playoff game against the San Diego Chargers was a sellout. The game will be played at Paul Brown Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Normally, teams must sell out 72 hours before kickoff to have a game broadcast in their local market. But the NFL gave the Bengals an extra day to do it.
While the fans flocked to the ticket office and went online to purchase tickets, it took the buying power of several local businesses and influential people to ensure the more than 65,000 seats in Paul Brown Stadium were filled for Sunday's the 1:05 p.m. kickoff.
Recent purchases by Cincinnati-based Kroger and local brands of Procter & Gamble enabled the game to be sold out, according to the Bengals ticket office.
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"P&G...stepped up to purchase the remaining available tickets," Bengals officials said. "The tickets will be added to the complimentary tickets Kroger is giving away this weekend to local military families who can attend the game and cheer on the Bengals."
Kroger will distribute the tickets to US Military veterans and active duty service members at several store locations in the area. Customers need to show their military ID for two free tickets to Sunday’s game, while supplies last.
"We want the community to not only watch the game but also an opportunity for us to thank the local military for what they do to defend our country everyday," said Rachael Beltzer, a spokesperson for Kroger.
The distribution will happen Saturday, Jan. 4 at various Kroger store locations across Greater Cincinnati, including Blue Ash, Amelia, Liberty Township, Newport, Dent, Austin Landing and Englewood.
The game will be televised in the Bengals home market on CBS affiliates in Cincinnati, Dayton and Lexington, Ky. thanks to the last-minute ticket sales.
While cornerback Terence Newman called it "kind of sad" that the game was in danger of being blacked out, Cincinnati wasn't alone in the near-embarrassment. The Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers were in danger of having the home playoff games they'd worked all season to procure blacked out.
Those would have been the first blacked out playoff games since 2002 when the game between the Ravens and Dolphins in Miami, Fla. didn't sell out.
Both teams were granted extensions by the NFL and ultimately relied on corporations to help get them to the the necessary sold ticket prices. In Indy, retailer Meijer purchased a sizable block of tickets, as did Associated Bank in Green Bay. Many military families will receive tickets in those cities, as well.
While some fans are relieved they'll be able to watch the game from the comfort of their homes or nearby sports bars, others are angered by the perceived bullying by the National Football League.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown vilified the league for pressuring working-class people into buying tickets with triple-digit price tags to a game played in a stadium they helped pay for.
“This is unacceptable at a time when the price of attending games continues to rise and the economy is not yet where it needs to be,” he said in a press release. “Fans, through local taxes, often help pay for the stadiums. They should be able to cheer on their local teams, especially during the playoffs.”
The NFL expressed no interest in lifting its blackout restriction despite a call for it to do so by Brown.
In his commentary "Cincinnati hands over lunch money to NFL bullies," WCPO reporter Dan Monk asked the following:
"What does the NFL really gain by selling 65,000 tickets instead of 55,000? Was $900,000 in extra ticket revenue really worth the public relations damage caused by threatening to withhold the game from fans who can’t afford a ticket?"
Regardless of everything else, one thing is certain: Bengals fans will be able to watch football in Cincinnati -- at least for one week.
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