Two U.S. Senators report that military tributes at NFL games are, in fact, marketing efforts by the U.S. military that are financed by taxpayers. In this system of “paid patriotism,” the Baltimore Ravens earned the fifth-most of any U.S. sports franchise.
The inquiry led by Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake found that the U.S. Department of Defense paid about $6.8 million for the big displays of patriotism. The report says the events include award presentations on the field, participation in the unfurling of the full-field American flag, reunions of armed services members and even tickets to the game. In the report, Pentagon reps write that the paid patriotism events were part of their recruitment efforts.
“Fans assume when they see these tributes that it’s being done because of patriotism,” Flake said. “To find out that the taxpayers are paying for some of these, it just kind of cheapens the whole thing.”
“Fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored because of their honorable military service, not as a marketing ploy,” McCain added.
The Ravens collected $534,400 for the displays in 2012 and 2013, the report states. Only four other teams, including the Patriots, were paid more. The payouts were made for presentations by the Maryland National Guard. Along with appearances by military members, the payouts covered 30,000 “co-branded” rally towels for $89,500 and two private pregame hospitality tents.
In the wake of the report, the Pentagon banned paid patriotism. According to Bloomberg, the NFL plans to pay back the money.
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