The Pentagon and professional sports: “paid patriotism”

It is no secret that the Dept. of Defense has a marketing relationship with professional sports, essentially using popular sporting events as recruiting tools. But two Arizona Republicans, Sen. Jeff Flake and no less a hawkish patriot than Sen. John McCain, have been investigating the nature and depth of this marketing relationship over the past year.

And now we know, based on contracts obtained by ABC News, that this marketing agreement includes some $6 million spent by the Defense Department alone just on arranging “hero moments” with professional sports teams. Such moments include the singing of the national anthem and the throwing of first pitches by uniformed military personnel. Flake and McCain have called this marketing ploy “paid patriotism.”

For example, ABC News states that one of the contracts specified that the Milwaukee Brewers were to be paid $7,500 for letting soldiers throw ceremonial first pitches on three separate occasions. * see note below.

The Brewers respond by saying that they allow military personnel to attend Brewers games for free, therefore, I suppose, justifying charging the Pentagon.  All the teams and leagues are claiming that these “hero moment” payments are just part of the larger marketing contracts they have with the Pentagon. Sen. Flake said he doesn’t think this explanation “holds water.” The contracts, according to ABC, specify the precise “hero moment” action and the precise amount each club will receive for staging it.

What Senators Flake and McCain object to is that taxpayers (who fund the Pentagon) are essentially paying the professional sports teams to be “patriotic” and think this wasteful. Of course, our Defense Dept. spends hundreds of billions on weaponry and wars every year, which strikes some of us Americans as really, really wasteful of both lives and money and, frankly, rather unpatriotic.

Note–The report released yesterday by Senators Flake and McCain lists $80,000 in payments the Mil. Brewers received from the Dept. of Defense. The report notes that the total amount could be higher.

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