NFL considering returning money for “paid patriotism”

Screenshot of the NFL's Salute to Service page.

Two US Senators are calling on the DOD to end its practice of “paid patriotism” in professional sports.

According to Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, the Defense Department has 122 marketing deals with pro sports teams worth $10.4 million. Seventy-two of those deals had items called “paid patriotism.”

“The Department of Defense is always saying we’re strapped for funds, then we find out that in some cases they’re paying for these paid tributes on the field,” Flake said.

When you see members of the US military unfurling the American flag across the length of the field before a football game, it seems like a great way to honor the armed forces.

However, it appears that many of these tributes at pro sports events are just marketing gimmicks falling under the category of “paid patriotism” — because taxpayer’s money is being used to fund them.

NFL franchises reportedly pocketed the most money from the government, with nearly $7 million in contracts including items called “paid patriotism.” The Maryland Army National Guard reportedly gave the Baltimore Ravens more than half a million dollars for patriotic events at their games.

The NFL is considering giving back taxpayer money to the Defense Department, according to CBS News.  The NFL has launched an audit, saying: “If we find that inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded in full.”

But other pro sports teams were also given money. Major League Baseball said it has encouraged teams “to take steps to avoid any appearance that they are being paid.”

Flake said some items were “outright boondoggles,” like the Air Force paying for four sideline season tickets to LA Galaxy games. Major League Soccer told CBS News the ceremonies honoring the armed forces are separate from the marketing agreements it signs with the military.

While the White House said the spending is justified, because “these kinds of relationships enhance recruiting efforts,” the Pentagon promised to end the practice.

The two republican senators said they are pushing legislation that would ban it.


  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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