Those wonderful patriotic displays that we often see at professional sporting events may not be so wonderful after all. It seems that the Pentagon has paid millions to the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the NHL for those appearances, to the tune of $9 million. That’s 9 million of our tax dollars that have gone to highly profitable sports leagues to promote the military. Lest you think these organizations approached the Department of Defense to ask for these displays, think again. It was the other way around.
Al Jazeera says that a report from the Senate, which came out on Wednesday, shows the money paid for everything from recruitment ceremonies to first pitches and puck drops, to on-field color guard performances and “hometown hero” ceremonies. Many, if not most, people believed that these displays were something the sports teams asked for and worked out with units that were local to them. It was more like selling valuable time to the Pentagon for profit. This feels like a major betrayal.
Furthermore, this is the U.S. government paying impossibly profitable sports teams for these displays, because obviously these teams can’t afford to do this for free. The Pentagon badly misused our tax dollars, without proper oversight, while Congressional Republicans screamed, whined and cried about a bloated federal budget. Given the fact that their books are already a royally hot mess, something like this smacks of idiocy and a severe lack of judgment, desperation, or corruption.
Is this why we need such a huge defense budget? So that it’s easy for the Pentagon to not only fix hopelessly outdated equipment and weapons, but also so that they can flush money down the toilet paying profitable sports teams for displays of “patriotism?” Please!
When Republicans scream about deficit spending and the need for budget cuts, we never hear about this stuff. We hear about so-called “entitlements” that we little people pay into, and the social safety net, and we hear about how Congress keeps looking for ways to increase defense spending. Bullsh*t like this that ought to be the first on the chopping block.
Oddly enough, it was Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans from Arizona, who wrote the report. Perhaps these two actually had a lucid moment or two and decided stuff like this should be stopped before we start talking about more painful cuts. McCain issued a statement that ripped both the DoD and the sports teams for deceiving patriotic fans:
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. Fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored because of their honorable military service, not as a marketing ploy.
NPR reports that the NFL has asked its teams to stop taking money for the displays, and the Pentagon itself has actually banned this practice, which was previously part of its recruiting campaigns. Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late, because this paid patriotism has been going on for at least the last four years.
$9 million seems like a somewhat small amount compared to our entirely too bloated defense budget of half a trillion dollars, but look at this: They paid $49,000 to the Milwaukee Brewers for allowing the National Guard to sponsor the Sunday singing of “God Bless America.” $20,000 went to the New York Jets “to recognize one to two New Jersey National Guard soldiers as hometown heroes.” Really? These small things cost that much money?
USA Today broke down other payments this way:
NFL teams were among the biggest beneficiaries, receiving more than $6 million, according to the report. The Atlanta Falcons received $879,000; the New England Patriots, $700,000; and the Buffalo Bills, $650,000. The Atlanta Braves received $450,000, the most of any Major League Baseball franchise, while the Minnesota Wild were paid $570,000, the most of any National Hockey League team.
The Atlanta contracts included a 2013 event during which a roaring crowd cheered as the Falcons welcomed 80 guard members who unfurled an American flag across the Georgia Dome’s turf.
That’s just sick and sad. Americans deserved to know the truth, both as Americans and as fans of these teams.
Featured image by Staff Sgt. Christopher Bolen. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons