Senators: Pentagon Shouldn’t Pay NFL for Patriotism

Payments to teams for honoring veterans should end, lawmakers say.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Four military jets perform a fly over during a ceremony honoring veterans before the start of the Philadelphia Eagles game against of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on November 11, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
National Journal
June 4, 2015, 10:07 a.m.

The Sen­ate wants the Pentagon to stop pay­ing the Na­tion­al Foot­ball League to pub­licly sa­lute sol­diers, hold pregame reen­list­ment ce­re­mon­ies and per­form on-field Amer­ic­an flag rol­louts.

The cham­ber on Thursday ap­proved an amend­ment from Sens. John Mc­Cain, Jeff Flake, and Richard Blu­menth­al to the an­nu­al de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion bill that would not only end this prac­tice but re­quire NFL teams to re­turn the mil­lions in past pay­ments and give them in­stead to char­it­ies sup­port­ing troops, vet­er­ans, and their fam­il­ies. This prac­tice, which has been dubbed “paid-for pat­ri­ot­ism” by crit­ics, has cost the DOD nearly $7 mil­lion over the last three years, ac­cord­ing to Mc­Cain.

Mc­Cain blas­ted the prac­tice, say­ing the teams duped the Amer­ic­an pub­lic. “Every fan, wheth­er united by team or di­vided by rivalry, comes to­geth­er to thank those who have served and sac­ri­ficed on our na­tion’s be­half,” the Ari­zona Re­pub­lic­an said. “That’s why I and so many oth­er Amer­ic­ans were shocked and dis­ap­poin­ted to learn that sev­er­al NFL teams wer­en’t spon­sor­ing these activ­it­ies out of the good­ness of their own hearts but were do­ing so to make an ex­tra buck.”

And for these trib­utes to be paid for dur­ing tough fisc­al times is es­pe­cially jar­ring, Mc­Cain said, as the de­part­ment can’t af­ford to “waste its lim­ited re­sources for the be­ne­fits of sports leagues that rake in bil­lions of dol­lars a year.”

Flake—an early crit­ic of the pay­ments—took to the floor after Mc­Cain, say­ing the Pentagon has been asked to provide a full ac­count of teams—not just in the NFL—that have re­ceived such pay­ments.

Last month, the House passed a “sense of Con­gress” res­ol­u­tion say­ing that this prac­tice should end and the money should in­stead go to­ward re­search and treat­ment of post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­order, and that the or­gan­iz­a­tions “should be mo­tiv­ated by pat­ri­ot­ism to hon­or the ser­vice of mem­bers of the Armed Forces out of their own free will.”

This art­icle has been up­dated.

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