Tags: Jeff Flake | NFL | Department of Defense | National Guard

Sen. Flake Demands Answers on Paid NFL Military Salutes

Image: Sen. Flake Demands Answers on Paid NFL Military Salutes
Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Ariz. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 12 May 2015 11:21 AM

The National Guard and Department of Defense have come under fire from a U.S. senator demanding to know all the financial details on "patriotic" promotions by National Football League teams that actually were paid for with millions of taxpayer dollars.

The Guard and DOD, it recently was revealed, paid $5.4 million to 14 NFL teams for "hometown hero" video salutes during games during 2011-2014, and other services, and defends the action as an advertising recruiting tool, ESPN reports.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., however, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and General Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard, is demanding more than just the details of the contracts — he wants the National Guard and DOD to report how much bang for the buck they actually received from their sports team deals.

Flake wrote that he wants "any available data and conclusions from formal programmatic reviews or evaluations by federal officials that indicates the effectiveness in recruitment efforts of service member recognition events with sporting organizations for which the sporting organizations are paid by service branches."

"While it may be appropriate for the National Guard or other service branches to spend taxpayer funds on activities directly related to recruiting," Flake wrote, "giving taxpayer funds to professional sports teams for activities that are portrayed to the public as paying homage to U.S. military personnel would seem inappropriate.

"Such promotions conjure up feelings of patriotism and pride for most sports fans, and the revelation that these are in fact paid arrangements is disappointing."

The controversy rapidly is expanding beyond the boundaries of the NFL. The National Guard also plans to spend $2,845,634 in similar promotions with college and hockey teams and NASCAR this year, USA Today reports.

The Guard also plans to spend $1,266,000 on NFL advertising in 2015. They spent $120 million on NASCAR sponsorship, mostly with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., but recently announced that arrangement was coming to an end, ESPN reported.

Even though The Washington Post reported in September that the cash-short National Guard, lacking $100 million in its budget, planned to cut back on training to save money, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that the National Guard spent $49.1 million on baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and golf advertising deals, ESPN notes.

Flake's letter states, "It is troubling to learn that taxpayer funds are being used to compensate these teams for honoring and recognizing U.S. military service members."
Flake told ESPN, "You go to a game and you see a team honoring 'Hometown Heroes' and you think it's some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

"Then you find out it's paid for? That seems a little unseemly.

"The government obviously doesn't have money to burn. I don't see how paying to give you a shout-out at NFL games is a wise use of money."

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The National Guard and Department of Defense have come under fire from a U.S. senator demanding to know all the financial details on patriotic promotions by National Football League teams that actually were paid for with millions of taxpayer dollars.
Jeff Flake, NFL, Department of Defense, National Guard
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2015-21-12
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 11:21 AM
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