American sports teams have raked in $6.8 million over almost four years from the U.S. government as part of a multi-million taxpayer-funded programme to promote military events, according to an official report. The report says that the Department of Defence paid NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL teams millions to bolster recruitment and promote the military by staging patriotic events at sporting events. The activities included organising recruitment ceremonies, on field colour-guard performances, “Hometown Heroes” ceremonies, amongst other perks.
Senator John McCain, the former Republican Presidential candidate-nominee of 2000 and 2008, and one of the co-authors of the report, said this week that “Americans across the country should be deeply disappointed that many of the ceremonies honouring troops at professional sporting events are not actually being conducted out of a sense of patriotism, but for profit in the form of millions in taxpayer dollars going from the Department of Defence to wealthy pro sports franchises,”. McCain and his co-report author, fellow Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, believe as a result of their study the Pentagon has been barred from spending taxpayer money on these events and sports teams have been asked to donate the money given to them for “paid patriotism” to organisations supporting veterans and their families.
Some of the recipients of this funding are NFL teams, like the Atlanta Falcons who received a total of $879,000 since 2012, and NASCAR which received a whopping $1.5 million this year. The NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers were paid $27,000 for an on-field swearing in ceremony in 2014, the New England Patriots included the recognition of a Massachusetts National Guard soldier and four season tickets, field passes and a VIP parking pass in return for the $700,000 the Guard paid them between fiscal year 2012 and 2014. The MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers were given $49,000 to sponsor each Sunday performance of “God Bless America” during 2014 home games and the NHL’s Florida Panthers were paid $20,000 in 2012 for ceremonial puck drop, colour guard demonstrations and the screening of a recruitment film prior to a home game.
The MLS’s LA Galaxy were also given $1,500 for a pregame recognition ceremony of five “high-ranking” US air force officers. The millions the defence department has spent on sports patriotism seem more for vanity than impact and that screams waste. I was in America during the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign, and witnessed first-hand the complete indoctrination-like tactics deployed on the field of play for myself. Along with some friends, we turned on an American football game involving the Pittsburgh Steelers, my own team and one which is now in the limelight following this report, and the first thing we see is a playing field size US flag, held by a sea of military bodies in uniform. Slowly, the penny dropped, at least for me anyway. Only later, did I realise that average American tax dollars were paying for this military presence and military adverts, enriching TV stations and networks, as well as, clearly, the football team owners.
The subtle militarisation of American sports really is not so subtle anymore. What national security purpose is served by spending millions that enrich TV networks and team owners? Viewers are fed a steady diet of a smiling military, injured military, even football playing military. No other country sings national anthem at each and every sports game, except in international play, or international events like the Olympics, yet this is commonplace in the US. If a regular league game is being played, most countries do NOT stand and praise their military or their flag. They simply enjoy the game. In all honesty, the average couch-potato sports fan will probably never know about the generals on the field or the giant flag before the game. If the primary reason to spend around $7m on patriotism at sporting events was to reach teens and young people watching at home, then the strategy has probably failed.