There are many standout moments when it comes to the return of a soldier at sporting events. Some include a soldier’s homecoming in front of 60,000 fans, listening to a wounded warrior belt the national anthem, or watching a Vietnam veteran throw the first pitch. These are customary before games but were discovered that some have been paid for by tax payers, not by the teams.
Two Arizona Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are leading the charge against this “paid patriotism,” after the Senators published a new investigative report shows tax payer money paying for the perks at athletic events for soldiers.
The report shows that 55 percent contracts amounting to $6.8 million contained some form of paid patriotism.
An amendment was introduced to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act to end these taxpayer-funded tributes, in which the White House would have no objection in passing, according to Josh Earnest. Now the Senators are calling on various sports organizations to donate the tax payer funds to organizations supporting veterans, families, and armed forces.
According to the report, $24,500 of tax money went to 35 upper level season passes to each Jets preseason and regular season home game. The Arizona Diamondbacks were given $40,000 in tax payer money to spend on the on-field oath ceremony, color guard demonstration, scorecard delivery, as well as 20 game entry vouchers for two Diamondbacks home games. Additionally, there was an opportunity for a soldier to deliver the ceremonial first pitch before a game last year. All in all, throughout the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS $53 million was spent on marketing and advertising contracts.
“Fans should not be unknowing viewers of a paid-marketing campaign. I am pleased that the Department of Defense has banned paid patriotism and the NFL has called on clubs to stop accepting payment for patriotic salutes,” said Senator Flake said in a press release. “Professional sports teams do a lot of good for our military, but paid patriotism on the taxpayers’ dime cheapens true displays of patriotism.”
McCain called the acts “disingenuous” and “unacceptable” to use tax payers money for veterans to gain recognition at sporting events, in an interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
At press conference held on Wednesday, it was stated that there has been good cooperation from the leagues and teams. It is likely, according to Sen. Flake, that managers could have been unaware of what the marketing department was doing.