Football

NFL seeks way to let overseas troops watch playoff games despite government shutdown

FILE - In this Dec. 23, 2012, file photo, the New England Patriots offense and Jacksonville Jaguars face off in Jacksonville, Fla. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship on Sunday. U.S. troops deployed overseas will not be able to watch the game via American Forces Network, which is off-air due to the government shutdown.
FILE - In this Dec. 23, 2012, file photo, the New England Patriots offense and Jacksonville Jaguars face off in Jacksonville, Fla. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship on Sunday. U.S. troops deployed overseas will not be able to watch the game via American Forces Network, which is off-air due to the government shutdown. AP

American Forces Network, the TV and radio broadcast service for U.S. troops overseas, is now unavailable due to the federal government shutdown that began Saturday, according to the Pentagon and AFN’s social media accounts.

AFN carries channels for news, entertainment and sports programming, and the shutdown leaves deployed American troops without their usual means to watch the NFL playoffs, which continue Sunday with the conference championship games.

The Jacksonville Jaguars take on the New England Patriots at 12:05 p.m. PST in the AFC championship game, followed by the NFC championship game pitting the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles at 3:40 p.m. PST. In the U.S. those games will be televised on CBS and FOX, respectively.

Many will be forced to miss Sunday’s games, but an alternative viewing option will let some watch.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said via Twitter that those with access to a USO Center can see the games for free, as the centers can use NFL Game Pass.

McCarthy later tweeted that the NFL is seeking other alternatives for troops who can’t get to a USO Center.

AFN has eight channels and 21 radio stations broadcasting to 168 countries and to naval ships, according to CNN.

Among other things, the shutdown has sent home tens of thousands of employees across several federal departments and agencies.

“Under a government shutdown, sports broadcasts are not considered an essential activity,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

AFN’s news channels and some of its radio stations stayed in service during the previous government shutdown in 2013, military news outlet Stars and Stripes reported Saturday.

The government shutdown also forced the Air Force Academy to reschedule a handful of sports events.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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