In May, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) and NJ.com revealed that those salutes to the troops, so omnipresent at football games, are no mere gesture of appreciation. They’re advertising, and the Department of Defense has paid the NFL more than $6 million over the last four seasons to honor the troops with ceremonies. It appears those days are over.
The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets defense spending policy for the next 12 months, contains language that would ban the practice and require a full accounting of the DoD’s contracts with sports leagues and teams.
“At a time of crippling budget cuts under sequestration, the Defense Department can’t afford to waste its limited resources for the benefit of sports leagues that rake in billions of dollars a year,” John McCain said on the Senate floor.
“When some teams are accepting money to do what has been termed ‘paid-for-patriotism,’ then it cheapens all the other good work that is done by these sports teams and others,” said Flake, who has asked the Pentagon for a full accounting of the money it has spent on such promotions and what benefits accrued from them.
Congress is still debating the passage of the bill, with the President threatening to veto it over matters unrelated to sports recruiting tactics. But however it finally passes, it’s a safe and bipartisan bet the ban on patriotism-as-propaganda will be intact. And it will affect more than just football: the DoD has similar contracts with MLB, the NBA, the NHL, MLS, NASCAR, and NCAA schools.