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The NFL And “Paid Patriotism”

According to an article by Eben Novy-Williams of BloombergBusiness, the NFL plans to refund taxpayer dollars paid to teams for military tributes.

The NFL is refunding taxpayer dollars paid to teams for military tributes. Photo via
The NFL is refunding taxpayer dollars paid to teams for military tributes. Photo via

The Department of Defense has spent more than $10 million on sports sponsorship in the past five years for box seats, advertising, on-site recruiting, and perhaps most controversial, tributes for soldiers.

This has been referred to as “paid patriotism” at sporting events and includes on-field color guard performances and ceremonies to honor soldiers, etc. Yesterday, November 4, Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released a 146-page report detailing the breakdown of how taxpayer dollars were being spent by the Department of Defense, especially for military appreciation at events. Almost 60 percent of the 122 sponsorship agreements (about 73 agreements) between the DOD and major league sports teams contained some provisions regarding military displays.

On November 2, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent Senators McCain and Flake a letter pledging the the NFL would audit all contracts between organizations and military service branches. He went further to say that any payments made for activities “beyond recruitment or advertising would be refunded in full.

An example of a military sponsorship within the NFL is that the New Jersey Army National Guard paid $20,000 for the New York Jets to recognize one or two soldiers as hometown heroes by providing club seats for the soldiers and up to three guests.

The NFL seems to be taking the initiative to make amends for these seemingly staged events, perhaps in attempts to improve its image after a rough 2014 campaign. Before the 2015 season, the NFL asked teams to separate military sponsorship from events such as soldier appreciation and community outreach. Other professional leagues, the NBA, MLB, and NHL, vary on their stances.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said although pro basketball teams occasionally recognize servicemen and women with on-court ceremonies, “These tributes are not paid for by the military. We will perform an additional review to ensure that this is the case.” Meanwhile spokespersons from the NHL and MLB declined to comment.