The defense budget is getting slimmer. Spending cuts, in some form, are expected to hit the military this year. Congress is looking at retirement reform, cuts to housing allowances and Tricare prescription fee increases. And don’t forget about the sad proposed pay increase of 1.3 percent.
Combine all this doom and gloom funding discussions with this headline,
“The Pentagon paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million to ‘salute troops’ ”
and many military families, including myself, are left shaking their heads in disbelief.
The Pentagon reportedly signed contracts with 14 NFL teams stipulating that teams would be paid sums ranging from $60,000 to $1 million each. These 2011-2012 contracts required professional football teams to pause before kick-off and to salute the city’s “hometown heroes.”
What I thought was a kind gesture for our men and women in uniform was basically one giant recruiting poster.
But these patriotic promotions may be prohibited in the future. Arizona Sen. John McCain, along with fellow Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal presented legislation that would “stop NFL teams from receiving recruiting or advertising money from the Defense Department to honor American soldiers at games.” This amendment also encourages teams “to donate profits from these efforts to charitable organizations that support members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families.”
“Our amendment would put an end to that shameful practice and ask the NFL to return those profits to charities supporting our troops, veterans and their families,” McCain said on the Senate floor.
In response, the National Guard and the NFL has defended this relationship. A statement from the NFL said that McCain’s proposed amendment paints a “distorted picture.”
“This amendment paints a completely distorted picture of the relationship between NFL teams and our military. We agree that no one should be paid to honor our troops. Military spending on recruiting efforts should not be confused with programs that support our nation’s active military and veterans,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a written statement.
But then there’s this:
“What makes these expenditures all the more troubling is that at the same time the Guard was spending millions on pro sports advertising, it was also running out of money for critical training for our troops,” McCain said.
McCain said that in 2014, the National Guard “was facing a shortfall of more than $100 million in the account used to pay its soldiers and potential delays in training.” It should also be noted that last year, the Guard discontinued its sponsorship of NASCAR after spending $88 million over 2 years.
For a complete list of teams that received money to salute the military, click here.