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Buying Patriotism

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The NFL and the Department of Defense: two vile organizations that deserve each other:

The Department of Defense doled out as much as $6.8 million in taxpayer money to professional sports teams to honor the military at games and events over the past four years, an amount it has “downplayed” amid scrutiny, a report unveiled by two Senate Republicans on Wednesday found.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake began looking into the Defense Department’s spending of taxpayer dollars on military tributes in June after they discovered the New Jersey Army National Guard paid the New York Jets $115,000 to recognize soldiers at home games.

The 145-page report released Wednesday dives deeper, revealing that 72 of the 122 professional sports contracts analyzed contained items deemed “paid patriotism” — the payment of taxpayer or Defense funds to teams in exchange for tributes like NFL’s “Salute to Service.” Honors paid for by the DOD were found not only in the NFL, but also the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. They included on-field color guard ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, and ceremonial first pitches and puck drops.

“Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it seems more appropriate that any organization with a genuine interest in honoring them, and deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer,” the report states.

DOD spent $53 million on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams from 2012 to 2015, the report found, but that also included legitimate ad campaigns such as stadium signs and social media mentions. However, it also included $6.8 million in contracts that contained activities the senators considered “inappropriate” patriotism for profit.

Patriotism for profit. I love it. There’s nothing more phony than professional sports tributes to the military, which primarily exist a) for fans to feel good about how much they love America and b) as recruiting tools for the military. Actual soldiers are largely irrelevant here and former soldiers who might be suffering from PTSD thanks to the pointless and idiotic wars of the last fifteen years are totally irrelevant and completely forgotten by the military, professional sports, and sports fans. It’s also worth noting that there is literally the NFL owners won’t do for money. One would think that if patriotism was the actual motivation here, the NFL would volunteer to hold these functions instead of taking cash for it. But no, of course not. The Pentagon manufactures patriotism, the NFL cashes in, older viewers feel good about their nation, and younger people volunteer for the military and get sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Everyone wins, right???

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