Washington (CNN) – American military personnel will be able to watch the NFL’s conference championship games Sunday despite the government shutdown, thanks to a new designation concerning the American Forces Network.
On Sunday morning, with the NFL scrambling to supply the games to troops overseas, the Department of Defense designated TV and radio broadcasts the AFN, whose key personnel were to be furloughed by the shutdown, “essential activities.”
“Despite the government shutdown, DoD determined the operational necessity of television and radio broadcasts constitutes them as essential activities,” Dana W. White, chief spokesperson for the DoD, said in a statement. “We will continue to find solutions to support our troops at home and abroad. Congress must come to a resolution, support our troops and pass a budget soon.”
The NFL had announced that it would provide access to its streaming service, NFL Game Pass, at United Service Organizations facilities worldwide, an NFL spokesperson said Saturday afternoon, and was exploring other means by which troops could watch the games between the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars at 3:05 p.m. EST on CBS and Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles at 6:40 p.m. EST on Fox.
AFN programming relies entirely on civilian government employees, who were furloughed at midnight Saturday. Sports broadcasting had not been deemed an essential activity and was stopped to comply with the shutdown.
According to White, uniform leadership at AFN, the comptroller and legal team were able to turn on a channel based on operational necessity and because funds had already been paid on the contract. The first channel is news and the second is sports, which can be run with minimal staffing that complies with the shutdown by not incurring any extra cost or personnel.
CNN’s Caroline Kenny contributed to this report.