Senators Take Aim at Pentagon over Paid Patriotism at Pro Sports Events
An oversight report released last week by Arizona Senators Jeff Flake (R) and John McCain (R) documented how the Defense Department (DOD) has for years paid professional sports teams to honor American soldiers at sporting events.
The report found 72 of 122 contracts between the Pentagon and professional sports organizations amounting to $6.8 million taxpayer dollars spent on some form of paid patriotism at sporting events.
Contracts uncovered by the senators found the DOD paid for specific activities including on-field color guard performances, enlistment and re-enlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, and ceremonial first pitches and puck drops.
The report cited the teams with the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS), as well as NASCAR, and college sports programs for engaging in paid patriotism.
A majority of the spending was found to be associated with the NFL, particularly four teams that received over $500,000 each over the past four years through contracts with DOD.
“Fans should not be unknowing viewers of a paid-marketing campaigns. I am pleased that the Department of Defense has banned paid patriotism and the NFL has called on clubs to stop accepting payment for patriotic salutes,” said Flake. “Professional sports teams do a lot of good for our military, but paid patriotism on the taxpayers’ dime cheapens true displays of patriotism.”
“Americans across the country should be deeply disappointed that many of the ceremonies honoring troops at professional sporting events are not actually being conducted out of a sense of patriotism, but for profit in the form of millions in taxpayer dollars going from the Department of Defense to wealthy pro sports franchises,” said McCain. “Fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored because of their honorable military service, not as a marketing ploy.”
The full report produced by Sens. Flake and McCain, Tackling Paid Patriotism: A Joint Oversight Report, can be accessed here.
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