The United States Department of Defense paid $5.4 million in taxpayer money to 14 NFL teams from 2011 to 2014 to honor service members during games, reports Christopher Baxter and Jonathan Salant of NJ.com.
The New York Jets were paid $377,500, with the majority of it spent by the New Jersey National Guard.
The Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams were the other teams to accept funds from the federal government.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) singled out the Jets and the New Jersey National Guard for what he considers wasteful spending.
"This will probably stand as the biggest Draft Day bust for the Jets until 8 p.m.," Flake said last month before the NFL draft in Chicago.
The Jets and the N.J. National Guard defended the way the money is being spent.
"Promoting and increasing the public's understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks and garners public support for our Hometown Team," Guard spokesman Patrick Daugherty said.
The NFL released a statement in response on Monday, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell:
"The Armed Forces have long worked with sports teams and leagues on year-round advertising and marketing programs to reach important audiences. The Armed Forces also have advertising arrangements with television networks, online and print outlets. The on-field salutes, which have played a role in NFL games for decades and will continue in the future, are a visible way to thank the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country here and around the world."
Flake said he had no issues with the National Guard using football games to recruit potential soldiers, but he said that using taxpayer money on the program is not the way to do it.
"We need to recruit and what better place to find young men and women than at a ballgame?" Flake said. "But when the team is honoring the heroes, that's the action I think rubs people the wrong way."
- Scooby Axson