Senators Say Government Should't Pay NFL to Honor Military

The U.S. Department of Defense has paid millions of dollars to professional sports organizations to honor the U.S. military and three U.S. senators, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, want to see an end to the practice.

Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Jeff Flake, R-AZ, have filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Defense from spending taxpayer dollars to honor American soldiers at sporting events.

This comes amid revelations that the National Guard spent $49 million on pro sports advertising – instead of training and equipping the armed forces, according to a report from McCain’s Office.

It also comes after reports that the U.S. Department of Defense paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million over the past four seasons for patriotic events.

Their amendment encourages professional sports organizations that have accepted taxpayer funds for military tributes to return the money as a charitable contribution to organizations that support members of the U.S. armed forces, veterans and their families.

“Football fans across America learned last month that several NFL teams were honoring U.S. service members not out of a sense of patriotism, but for profit in the form of millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense,” said Senators Blumenthal, McCain, and Flake said in a statement. “Our amendment would put an end to this practice, and ask professional sports leagues like the NFL to donate to charities supporting American troops, veterans and their families. In a time of growing threats to our nation’s security, we can’t afford to give scarce defense dollars to wealthy sports teams, and fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored on Sundays because of their honorable military service, not as an NFL marketing ploy.”
In the last three years, the National Guard paid NFL teams nearly $7 million for marketing and advertising contracts, including $675,000 to the New England Patriots, which included the team’s “True Patriot” promotion, in which the team honored Guard soldiers during home game half-time shows., according to a news release from Blumenthal.

Other contracts funded color guard performances, flag ceremonies, and appearance fees to players for honoring local high school coaches and visiting students.

Senator Flake sent a letter to the Pentagon in May asking for more information on taxpayer-funded payments to sports teams for honoring U.S. military service members, after uncovering a $115,000 payment from the New Jersey Army National Guard to the New York Jets for advertising services that included recognizing soldiers as “Hometown Heroes” at games.

In a government oversight report released last month, Senator McCain highlighted $49 million that the Army National Guard spent in 2014 on marketing and advertising with pro sports organizations despite the fact that the Guard was facing serious budget shortfalls in the accounts used to pay and train soldiers.

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