Report: Pentagon paid sports teams millions for staged patriotism

Labeling the practice 'paid patriotism,' two Republican senators slam the Pentagon for paying pro sports teams $6.8 million for staging patriotic events involving members of the military.

Steven Senne/AP/File
Members of the US military carry US flags onto the field before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass.

A new report reveals that some patriotic displays involving members of the US armed forces during professional sporting events were actually costly marketing schemes paid for by the Pentagon.

The Defense Department has spent $6.8 million on sports marketing contracts since 2012, according to a joint oversight report released Wednesday by Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain.

The Pentagon distributed funds via at least 72 contracts with teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer, the report claims, including:

The Atlanta Falcons received $315,000 in 2013 for having 80 members of the National Guard unfurl an American flag across the field.

The New England Patriots were paid $700,000 for game tickets, tailgate passes, training camp passes, and use of a hospitality suite.

The New York Mets received $10,000 for letting the Air Force conduct an on-field swearing-in ceremony.

The New York Jets got $20,000 "to recognize two soldiers as hometown heroes" on the video scoreboard at each home game.

"Americans deserve the ability to assume that tributes for our men and women in military uniform are genuine displays of national pride, which many are, rather than taxpayer-funded DOD marketing gimmicks," Senators McCain and Flake wrote in the report, "Tackling Paid Patriotism."

An omnibus military authorization bill moving through Congress will contain a provision prohibiting the Pentagon practice, McCain told reporters on Wednesday. The NFL is taking its own steps to end 'paid patriotism.'

"We strongly oppose the use of recruitment funds for anything other than their proper purpose," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. According to the report, some contracts did include straightforward marketing expenditures, such as signs at stadiums and booths for military recruiters, as well as subsidizing these acts of manufactured patriotism.

The NFL is auditing its teams' marketing contracts, looking for patriotic tributes bought and paid for by the DoD, ESPN reports.

"If we find that inappropriate payments were made," Mr. Goodell wrote, "they will be refunded in full."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Report: Pentagon paid sports teams millions for staged patriotism
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today