When the Golden State Warriors traveled to Cleveland for the Game 3 of the NBA Finals last June, the team decided to accommodate the thousands of fans in the Bay Area who couldn't make it to Ohio by holding a watch party at Oracle Arena.
After the Falcons won the NFC title game on Sunday, Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed was hoping to do the same thing in his city. With the Georgia Dome set to close in the next few months, Reed wanted to hold one final party there: a Super Bowl party where everyone in Atlanta could watch the Falcons play the Patriots.
Although it sounds like a good idea, it's not going to happen, and that's because NFL rules expressly forbid the kind of watch party that Reed was hoping to have.
In a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Georgia Dome explained why the party won't be happening.
"We share your tremendous excitement that the Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl," Dome officials said in a statement. "NFL rules prohibit us from using the Georgia Dome for broadcasting the game. Fans wishing to gather with other fans to watch the game can consider patronizing neighborhood businesses who will be showing the game."
If you're wondering why the Georgia Dome can't show the game, it has to do with copyright law. The law is in place to protect the league's TV ratings, which could take a hit if people were able to gather in large numbers at gigantic venues like the Georgia Dome.
NFL rules stipulate that if you're having a viewing party anywhere, it shouldn't be on a screen that's bigger than 55 inches, although the league probably won't hunt you down if you have a 70-inch screen at a Super Bowl party that's being held at your house.
If 70,000 people are at the Georgia Dome though, that's 70,000 people who aren't watching at home for Nielsen to register, which potentially means lost revenue for the network airing the game. The reason you're allowed to watch at a sports bar is because any business that make their money by showing televised sports are exempt from the NFL's rules.
The league actually has come under fire before due to this rule. Back in 2007, the NFL went after a church in Indiana that was planning to show the Colts and Bears play in Super Bowl XLI. In that instance, the church wasn't allowed to show the game, but the league eventually relented and ruled that churches, like sports bars, would also be exempt from the rule.
As for Atlanta, Falcons fans aren't happy about the policy, and they're trying to change it. More than 2,400 fans have signed a petition asking the NFL to allow the Georgia Dome to hold a watch party.
If the party is going to happen, the dome is going to need the "expressed written consent" of the NFL, which doesn't seem very likely to be given.