NFL *Says* It Will Pay Pentagon Back for Patriotic Halftime Shows

That stirring multi-million-dollar display of patriotism you saw at halftime was brought to you by...your own tax dollars!


Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain have released a report called "Tackling Paid Patriotism" which details how the military spent millions of tax dollars to put on halftime shows, honor guards, jet flyovers, and other spectacles at professional and college sporting events.

In 2013, a roaring crowd cheered as the Atlanta Falcons welcomed National Guard members who unfurled an American flag across the Georgia Dome's turf. Little did those fans—or millions of other Americans—know that the National Guard had actually paid the Atlanta Falcons for this display of patriotism as part of a $315,000 marketing contract.

This unfortunate story is not limited to professional football, but is repeated at other professional and college sporting events around the nation. In fact, these displays of paid patriotism are included within the $6.8 million that the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent on sports marketing contracts since fiscal year 2012.

What a revolting spectacle, no? The presumption among viewers is that this stuff is being done for free as some sort of true patriotic feeling. Instead, it's yet one more scam that a scandal-plagued military-industrial complex and pro sports league are foisting on folks. God knows the NFL is near broke, so it needs all the pennies it can scrape together, right? Channeling Samuel Johnson, Bob Dylan once sang that "patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings." Scoundrels—and professional sports teams that are already ripping off the public six ways to Sunday.

The report has prompted a backlash—both against the military for wasting tax dollars and the NFL for taking tax dollars in this way rather than simply through stadium subsidies and other more time-worn rip-offs—and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has pledged that teams will return all money they received through the programs. More specifically, he said the league will conduct an audit and "if we find that inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded in full." So I'm guessing that probably no dollars will actually head back to the treasury.

According to Deadspin, the teams making top dollar off the program were all in the NFL:

These 10 teams were paid the most for their salutes to the troops:

  1. Atlanta Falcons $879,000
  2. New England Patriots $700,000
  3. Buffalo Bills $650,000
  4. Minnesota Wild $570,000
  5. Baltimore Ravens $534,500
  6. New Orleans Saints $472,875
  7. San Diego Chargers $453,500
  8. Seattle Seahawks $453,500
  9. Atlanta Braves $450,000
  10. Indianapolis Colts $420,000

In an addendum to the report, Flake and McCain include team owner statements that bleed patriotism and a "was that wrong?" posture that calls to mind Seinfeld's George Costanza after being caught having sex on his desk with the cleaning woman. From the Falcons' owner:

It is regretful that the good works of our NFL league office and teams were overlooked in the news stories of the last few days, and I hope this letter aids in painting a more accurate portrayal. We remain steadfast in our desire to be good citizens and proud supporters of our community, including our support of the important work of our Armed Forces.

Read the whole report.

Related: Was that wrong?


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  1. What a revolting spectacle, no? The presumption among viewers is that this stuff is being done for free as some sort of true patriotic feeling.

    Not all viewers are that stupid. I think maybe I should break it to people that Peyton Manning may not be pushing Papa Hohn’s because he loves it so much. And Papa John’s isn’t paying Peyton because he needs money so bad.

    God knows the NFL is near broke, so it needs all the pennies it can scrape together, right?

    Is this Salon?

    1. Of course, Papa John’s is a business, which are known for their penchant for advertising and paying celebrities to endorse their products, and are free (mostly) to spend their money as they (rather, their shareholders) see fit. Otherwise, I can see how the similarities should be blatantly obvious to the audience who is there to spectate the main event not the crap during the bathroom break.

    2. I think maybe I should break it to people that Peyton Manning may not be pushing Papa Hohn’s because he loves it so much.

      I bet he really does hum the ‘Nationwide is on your side.’ tune, unsolicited, at random intervals though.

      1. “Chicken parm, it tastes so good.”

      2. “Chicken parm, it tastes so good.”

  2. Good work McCain and Flake, you will save millions while wasting billions using the US military as a world wide police force.

    1. It’s a distraction play

    2. Good work McCain and Flake, you will save millions while wasting billions using the US military as a world wide police force.

      You’re right. They shouldn’t have called attention to this at all. This certainly won’t raise any awareness about government waste in people who might not have given it a thought before. And if someone is wrong about one issue, they’re 100% wrong on every issue.

      1. Shit, I can’t properly display the nickname I earned during the GHW Bush presidency. What a bummer.

  3. OT:

    Thanks to all who replied to my inquiry yesterday regarding FNH and HK pistols. I will keep you posted.

    1. A true domineering species would chose Sig Saur…plastic frames are for mortals

      1. I do have a Sig 226 that I love, especially b/c I can swap out the barrel and shoot either .40 or .357 Sig. Considering a couple of the Sig carry versions as well, just wonder if its a good idea to try different manufacturers!

        Hopefully I can pick up my Para 1911, CZ 75 Compact, and my Bersa Thunder Pro.

  4. No shock that Pats and Bruins are leading the charge…

  5. I used to hate it when our CO would volunteer us for some dog and pony show like that.

    First off, you had to practice before the event. Then you had to get all dolled up to go there. Then it was the classic hurry up and wait while the event went on.

    I’m guessing that 90% of the poor non-rates who had to trot out there for these fuckstains wanted to be anywhere but there.

    1. Clearly those troops don’t Support The Troops.

  6. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,


  7. If this is wasteful spending, then so are all of the dollars spent on recruitment advertising. I’m not seeing much difference. And let’s not even start about the monetary value of services provided to Michael Bay and other directors.

    1. I just assumed it came out of the recruiting budget.

  8. Damn. The 9ers aren’t even in the top ten of scammers! I blame Kaepernick.

  9. When I attended a race at Pocono a few years back, during driver introductions, when they drive along the front stretch waving at the crowd, each driver was met with varying amounts of applause (the loudest for Dale Jr. of course). But when the National Guard climbed into their humvees and drove across the frontstretch, the crowd rose to their feet and roared with thunderous applause, drowning out anything that had come before, with the National Guard troops grinning and waving enthusiastically. I always thought that those activities came out of the military’s advertising budget. It seems to be money well spent at Nascar events.

  10. I am shocked – shocked! – to find there is Proctor and Gamble-ing going on in here!

    Next I suppose you’ll be telling me that Heinz Field isn’t so-named just because the Steelers love catsup or the Carrier Dome because the Colts love air conditioning.

    1. Syracuse “plays” in the Carrier Dome.

      1. Well, hell, I didn’t even know Syracuse had an NFL team. So where does Baltimore play its games?

  11. Is the point here that the military should not be doing marketing campaigns or that the NFL should let the military use NFL events to market itself free of charge?

    Otherwise this is coming off as a kind of strange complaint.

    1. I think the complaint is that the taxpayers are paying for the Pentagon ad campaign without realizing it’s an ad campaign and not just the proud patriotic spirit of sports leagues showing through. When the TV cameras make sure to show that bank of Microsoft Surface tablets (available at Amazon at a low, low price – order now and you’ll get free shipping and a guaranteed fast delivery by Fed-Ex, makes a great back-to-school gift for the student or Legg’s stockings-stuffer for anyone, buy two and we’ll throw in this attractive offer from Verizon Wireless on a six-month discounted wireless plan, brought to you by Pepsi – Pepsi, the choice of a numb generation – and by Frito-Lay, now with double the softness for that just-brushed freshness!) not everyone realizes that it’s not by accident. Just as not everyone realizes that lovely stadium you’re looking at is partially so lovely because you so generously offered to help pay for it.

      1. Wait a minute. Go back to that deal on the Surface tablets. Which model and how much memory?

        1. Man, I wish just one of the TV announcers had the balls to say “And now here’s one of our three contractually-obligated shots of the offensive coordinator up in the booth using his Microsoft Surface tablet that we’re supposed to pretend we’re not being paid to shove in your face and I’ll probably get fired for for pointing out that you’re looking at a fucking advertisement we’re all supposed to pretend is not an advertisement.” I’m almost as sick of Microsoft Surface tablets as I am hearing about how Saint Aaron Rodgers (pbuh) healed three blind men, two lepers and a skunky beer with his miraculous quarterbacking skills on his way into the stadium this morning.

          1. A sports journalist once wrote that all the teams use iPads until Sundays when the cameras are pointed at them.

    2. I guess the NFL is so beaten down by all the bad SJW press in years past they just roll over for this stuff.

    3. There must not have been a cloud in the sky to yell at today. Hence this article.

    4. How about not fellating the military at sports events at all?

      1. Leave it up to the teams – they want to rah-rah, they can pay for it.

        Chicago Blackhawks have one old vet and one current service member stand out there during the national anthem singing. Then they get to sit in some half decent seats near a corner of one end. Crowd likes it, the only expense is to the Hawks and not the taxpayers. Better than paying for some giant showtime.

  12. How about getting money back for the fiasco that is the F-35.There’s a long list of things to cut in the D.O.D. Bases,golf courses,and too many generals.Maybe let Korea,Japan, and Europe take care of their onw defense. And of course get out of the Middle East. It seems the west’s enemies are fighting each other.Let them be.

    1. BTW,I’m a Browns fan,can’t see anyone paying them. Oh well,atl least my other favorite pro team is doing well,Ohio State.

      1. O-H…

          1. That spells Michigan

  13. Somehow finding out that this is all paid advertising instead of actual “patriotism” makes all this stuff seem a lot more palatable to me.

  14. The presumption among viewers is that this stuff is being done for free as some sort of true patriotic feeling.

    Are you a retard? Seriously, are you?

    I won’t say ‘everyone’, because that gets you in trouble, but most people are aware that these are commercials for the military. Either for recruitment or for support purposes.

    The fact that the NFL got paid for letting the government do this–instead of the State just demanding the time–is a GOOD thing.

    Libertarians think it’s only proper that, if the state is going to propagandize, then they should pay for that privilege, just like everyone else.

    1. The presumption among viewers is that this stuff is being done for free as some sort of true patriotic feeling.

      Are you a retard? Seriously, are you?

      No one ever recommended me for MENSA, but this has always been my presumption. They sing the anthem and march out the flag at every high school and college game I’ve ever been to as well. I never presumed that was a paid advertisement either.

      1. And why would you? At the state school sporting events the state owns the field.

        So it’s not a paid advertisement.

    2. You can say that,but,the NFL sucks at the government tits at all levels. Hell,paying for their own place of business,stadiums,make them a sad.

      1. I’m just suprised Elon Musk didn’t line up for some of this gravy.

  15. Ok, I think pretty much everyone here agrees that an all volunteer military is a good thing.

    An all volunteer military requires advertising.

    So I’m really not seeing the problem here.

    Especially since the actual dollar amounts are so small

    1. I think the bigger problem here is that the Wild have joined the NFL. I don’t think their skates will work very well on the field.

    2. No,it doesn’t,it is a government job,they get so much free ad space in media their fine.All volunteer works well,but,the please don’t compare them to a private business. There is no real threat to this country that demands a military spread across the world. I’d eliminate all government ads.

  16. Flake and McCain.

    Best TV series since Hardcastle and McCormick

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