Congress prepares to ban ‘pay for patriotism’ promos at sporting events

Thursday October 1st, 2015

Congress is preparing to approve a bill that would ban promotions saluting U.S. troops at taxpayer expense during sporting events, Jonathan Salant of reports.

Funding would be cut from promotions like the New York Jets’ “hometown heroes” salute, in which one or two soldiers are featured on the stadium screen during a game and fans are implored to thank the soldiers for their service. The Jets received $377,000 between 2011 and 2014 from the Department of Defense and the Jersey Guard in compensation for this promotion and other advertising, reported.

In that four-year span, 14 NFL teams received $5.4 million from the Department of Defense for similar contracts involving promotions, which have been dubbed “pay for patriotism.”

“Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told in May. “You get a good feeling in your heart. Then to find out they‘re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.”

The legislation, which awaits final approval from both the House and Senate, is paired with a report that calls on the NFL and other sports leagues to consider donating the money they have received from these deals to charity.

“Thanking our troops ought to be something more than a marketing gimmick, so I’m glad that Congress has agreed to put an end to these taxpayer-funded salutes,” Flake said.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the legislation casts the relationship between the NFL and the military in a misleading light.

“The NFL has had a long and charitable relationship with our military that we are excited to continue with this year's Salute to Service campaign this fall,” McCarthy said. “We agree that no one should be paid to honor our troops, and the league and its 32 clubs are fully committed to that. Military spending on recruiting efforts should not be confused with community programs.”

- Erin Flynn

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