Lawmakers shaming sports leagues over paid patriotism

Lawmakers are pressing forward with a campaign to shame professional sports leagues that have been paid by the Defense Department to be patriotic.

Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake scheduled a press conference on Wednesday to discuss payments made by the Pentagon to the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Hockey League to honor service members at sporting events. Government records indicate the department paid $5.4 million to 14 NFL teams between 2011 and 2014 to engage in such activities.

However, lawmakers have had a difficult time ascertaining details surrounding the payments as both the Pentagon and the leagues have tried to maintain some secrecy. Senators have already amended the National Defense Authorization Act to prohibit the payments, and called on the leagues to donate the money to veterans' organizations.

"While it may be appropriate … to spend taxpayer funds on activities directly related to recruiting, giving taxpayer funds to professional sports teams for activities that are portrayed to the public as paying homage to U.S. military personnel would seem inappropriate," Flake wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Such promotions conjure up feelings of patriotism and pride for most sports fans, and the revelation that these are in fact paid arrangements is disappointing."

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