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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets owner Woody Johnson channeled his inner Joe Namath, guaranteeing Thursday that 2010 home games will be shown locally on television.
"They're not going to be blacked out," Johnson told ESPNNewYork.com in an interview at the team's headquarters.
More than 10,000 personal seat licenses remain unsold in the New Meadowlands Stadium, according to a New York Post report. By NFL rule, if a team fails to sell out its non-premium seats for a particular home game, the game isn't shown on local TV. The Jets' last home blackout was 1977.
Johnson said he never acknowledged a specific number of unsold seats. He declined to reveal the number, saying it wouldn't be good business to release that information. For months, team officials have protected that number as if it were the secret recipe for Coca-Cola. But it became a big story Thursday, with panic-stricken fans suddenly concerned about the prospect of not being able to watch the Jets on TV.
Fans also became irate because the team has said it won't cut prices for the remaining PSLs, which range in price from $4,000 to $30,000. Johnson, perhaps in damage-control mode, said he's confident the $1.6 billion stadium will be sold out by the Sept. 13 opener -- a Monday night game against the Ravens on ESPN. If not, he vowed to avert blackouts.
"I can say it. I'm the owner of the team," he said. "As the owner, as a representative of this organization, we have confidence it will be sold out. If we're not sold out, we will not have blackout games."
Johnson declined to specify how he'd get around a non-sellout, saying only, "It happens all the time" around the league. Teams, when they're near a sellout, have occasionally worked with sponsors or other business partners to guarantee a sellout and avoid a blackout, according to a league spokesman. But one thing appears certain: The team won't sell tickets on a game-by-game basis. That, Johnson said, would be unfair to those who dropped big bucks on the PSLs.
Most of the unsold seats are in the end-zone sections of the lower bowl in the 82,500-seat stadium. Unlike the Giants, co-owners of the stadium, the Jets made the upper bowl (approximately 28,000 seats) available without PSLs.
Jets officials claimed they're not surprised that seats still are available, attributing most of it to the economic downturn. They still have four months until the opener, and they plan to continue their aggressive marketing campaign.
Johnson, seated in one of the offices in his state-of-the-art complex in New Jersey, noted one positive that has emerged from the blackout scare.
"We're having one of our best sales days in a long while today," he said. "[It's] further evidence that we're on track."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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