From 2011 to 2014, the NFL collected a reported $5.4 million in taxpayer money for mid-game salutes to the military. Calling the promotions “pay for patriotism” and “marketing gimmicks,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has convinced Congress to ban this kind of activity at major sporting events.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which was agreed to by congressional negotiators according to NJ.com, would ban taxpayer-funded salutes and prevent professional sports leagues from making money on them.
Flake first called out the issue in a letter from last May to Chief of the National Guard Bureau General Frank Grass and Defense Secretary Ash Carter after the New York Jets reportedly earned $377,500 over three years for what appeared to be pure patriotism.
“[G]iving 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. “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.”
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the provision “paints a completely distorted picture of the relationship” between the military and the league.
A report that accompanies the legislation suggests that the NFL and other sports leagues that received taxpayer money for these kinds of salutes consider donating to a charity that supports active-duty troops, veterans and their families.
“I applaud my colleagues for recognizing and agreeing that demonstrating appreciation and standing in patriotic solidarity with our military should not come with a price-tag,” said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.). “It is my absolute belief that those sports teams and organizations who accepted taxpayer dollars for ‘paid-for-patriotism’ now donate an equal sum to charitable groups that truly support our men and women in uniform.”