In 2013, 80 National Guard members unfurled an American Flag across the Atlanta Flacon's dome in Georgia.
What may have looked like a charitable display of patriotism was actually a $315,000 marketing contract, according to a Senate report released on Wednesday.
The Department of Defense has paid over $10 million of taxpayers' money to the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS over the last three years to promote the armed services in an effort to boost recruitment, according to a report put out by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.
"While many professional sporting teams do include patriotic events as a pure display of national
pride, this report highlights far too many instances when that is simply not the case," the report said. "When our offices first discovered this practice, we sought to better understand it from DOD and introduced an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to end these taxpayer-funded salutes to the troops."
The line between advertising and community relations/military appreciation by the Department of Defense has been blurred. The investigation started in spring but the report still account all the examples of "paid patriotism."
The report went as far to criticize sports teams that took advantage of these deals and said it overshadows the teams that actually do charitable work for the military.
The senators hope the ban will help restrict this kind of spending in the military, which also included the time the Los Angeles Galaxy were paid $1,500 for each of the five Air Force officers they honored at a game or the time the New York Mets were paid $10,00 for an on-field swearing-in ceremony.
The NFL was paid the most of all the leagues; since fiscal year 2012 the NFL was paid over $6,110, 335 with the MLB coming in second at $899,085.
"We strongly oppose the use of recruitment funds for anything other than their proper purpose," NFL's commissioner, Roger Goodell wrote to the senators on Nov. 2.