Have you ever attended a live sports game and noticed a quick break to honor a soldier?
You paid for that.
A scathing report from the Boston Globe today highlights an investigation by Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake over taxpayer money being used for military advertising in sports games as a recruitment strategy.
The report specifically cites the Patriots as the second highest earning team, reeling in $700,000 from the Department of Defense, to put on those displays at the game, among other things.
The Patriots are one of the worst offenders, but they aren't alone. The Atlanta Falcons top the charts of money earned off of this while other teams like the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, as well as teams in other sports - including the Boston Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox, also collect money from the government to help recruit soldiers.
Flake said that he, along with fellow Arizona Republican McCain, launched the investigation in April after discovering that the weekly “hometown hero” tributes by the New England Patriots and New York Jets were actually Pentagon advertising contracts undisclosed by the teams.
McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war, said taxpayers should be disappointed that the elaborate ceremonies involving the American flag and the national anthem are being conducted for the benefit of wealthy professional sports franchises. The Defense Department even paid teams to perform surprise welcome home promotions for troops returning from deployment.
In addition to the displays of patriotism, many of the contracts featured in the report included game tickets, the use of team facilities, and on-field recognition of high school football players and coaches as a way to gain access to potential recruits and influencers such as coaches — a tactic the 145-page report found questionable.
The practice should be objectively disgusting.
When asked to respond, the Patriots and other teams iterated that they have always put on displays for veterans, and would continue to do so even without money. A reasonable point, but it doesn't explain the immoral practice of essentially bribing young kids with game tickets and team swag to sign up to join the armed forces.
“If the most compelling message about military service we can deliver to prospective recruits and influencers is the promise of game tickets, gifts, and player appearances, we need to rethink our approach to how we are inspiring qualified men and women to military service,” the report said.
Roger Goodell responded to McCain and Flake in a letter, unsurprisingly stating that the league is committed to ensuring that the honoring of soliders doesn't become a commercial transaction.
Of course, because the NFL has integrity after all.