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The Government wants answers on money spent for
Military Tributes during sporting events.
A U.S. senator wants the Department of Defense and National Guard to explain
what he calls a "troubling" marketing and promotional relationship with professional
baseball, football, hockey and basketball teams, after a news report detailed
payments made by the military in exchange for patriotic tributes at live events.
In a letter sent Monday to the Secretary of Defense and the chief of the National
Guard Bureau, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) asked the Department of Defense to supply
the total amount it has paid pro leagues and franchises since fiscal year 2009 to
present promotional material and the "complete details on the number of paid
salutes for honoring members of the Armed Services (and) the amount spent on
"While it may be appropriate for the National Guard or other service branches to
spend taxpayer funds on activities directly related to recruiting," Flake wrote, "giving
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.
"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."
According to the report, the New Jersey Guard and Department of Defense paid
the franchise a total of $377,000 from 2011-14 for in-game salutes to members of
the military and other military-themed advertising, according to federal contracts.
During the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons, for example, the New Jersey Army
National Guard paid the franchise between $97,000 and $115,000 for a wide range
of advertising and promotion, including a video board feature recognizing
hometown heroes and 500,000 digital banner impressions inside MetLife Stadium.
A team official who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the
issue said the agreement with the New Jersey National Guard had expired but said
the club would continue to honor members of the military. The person also said the
team should have been clear that the hometown heroes segment was a paid
advertisement for the New Jersey National Guard.
Several NFL franchises are involved in relationships with the military. The National
Guard will devote $1,266,000 to NFL advertising during the 2015 fiscal year, according
to spokesman Maj. Earl Brown, spending $225,000 to advertise and market with the
New England Patriots and another $200,000 with the Indianapolis Colts.
"The intent of these advertising partnerships is to promote the (National Guard) brand
within the thousands of communities in which we serve that results in increased
awareness of opportunities the (National Guard) has to offer," said Brown, adding that
such arrangements serve to "promote opportunities the (National Guard) has to offer
in terms of young men and women serving their communities."
The National Guard will spend another $2,845,634 for advertising across a gamut of
non-NFL sports, including college programs such as the University of Alabama
($22,000) and the University of Connecticut ($99,000); the Atlanta Braves ($150,000);
NASCAR's Kansas Speedway ($200,000); and the NHL's Boston Bruins ($130,000).