Pay for patriotism report in US names NFL and NHL teams

© Brian Snyder
In an increasingly scandalous situation, a report written by US senators Jeff Flake and John McCain details what has become known as ‘paid patriotism,’ and how the US Department of Defense pays for displays such as full-pitch flags at sporting events.

The report reveals that an estimated $6.8 million has changed hands between the Department and NHL, NFL, MLS, and Major League Baseball teams, meaning that what were once thought to be spontaneous and apparently goodwill gestures towards military personnel were, in fact, actually paid for by the government, making them largely redundant. The report says, “By paying for such heartwarming displays like recognition of wounded warriors, surprise homecomings, and on-field enlistment ceremonies, these displays lost their luster.”

© Pierre DuCharme

In addition, the report named specific NHL teams that had accepted payments for these displays. Named parties include teams such as the Boston Bruins, the Florida Panthers, and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Minnesota Wild received the most, which received 570,000 taxpayer dollars from the Minnesota Army National Guard, to whom they were contracted. This was in exchange for displays and perks such as “Special recognition during presenting night (2013-2015)” and recognizing an MNARNG soldier on the center score board in fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Across the different leagues, 72 of the 122 contracts were for some form of ‘paid patriotism.’ NFL teams received the most, $6.1 million out of a total $10.5 million, with the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers receiving the most, at $879,000 and $700,000. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has told reporters that any funds that were directly used for pay-to-patriotism will be refunded. “If we find that inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded in full,” Goodell wrote in a letter dated November 2.

© Eric Miller

With $6.1 million of the total $10.5 million going to NFL teams, the other Leagues involved shared out $4.4 million between them. The Florida Panthers received $40,000 from the United States Air Force in 2012 and 2013, while the Dallas Stars received $10,000 from the USAF in 2012, and $24,000 from the Texas Army National Guard in 2012 and 2013.

“This not only betrays the sentiment and trust of fans, but casts an unfortunate shadow over the genuine patriotic partnerships that do so much for our troops, such as the National Football League’s Salute to the Service campaign,” the senators say in their report.

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