Pentagon paid pro sports teams millions for staged military events, but none to Tampa Bay clubs
The Pentagon paid professional sports teams $6.8 million since mid-2011 to conduct military tributes at games, according to a Senate report released Wednesday.
In some instances, the Department of Defense even paid for surprise reunions between soldiers and their families, the report said, and also hometown hero tributes, flag ceremonies, first pitches and puck drops involving military members.
The acts typically generate good will for the sports teams that host them, but are really marketing and advertising expenses for the military. The report called it “paid patriotism.”
“Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it seems more appropriate that any organization with a genuine interest in honoring them,” the report, authored by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, said, “And deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer.”
The report analyzed 122 contracts between professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer teams totalling $10.4 million since the start of fiscal year 2012.
While some of the contracts are for normal advertising expenses, like Army billboards at stadiums, 72 of the contracts were for “paid patriotism.”
Eight of the 10 teams that received the most money were NFL franchises, topped by the Atlanta Falcons, who were paid $879,000 during the past three years. In all, 18 NFL teams received $5.6 million, and 50 teams total were paid during that time.
But despite a sizeable military population and the nearby MacDill Air Force Base, none of the 50 teams highlighted by the 145-page report were from Tampa Bay.
The only Florida teams listed on the report are the Miami Dolphins and the Florida Panthers.
The Dolphins received $20,000 in 2012 to host a swearing-in ceremony for up to Delayed Enlist Program members and their families, which included a private tour.
The DOD paid the Panthers $40,000 for a “ceremonial puck drop, a color guard demonstration, and the option to have USAF personnel to rappel from the arena rafters at Panthers Air Force nights” in addition to tickets.
The Rays and the Lightning are not mentioned in the report at all. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were included in the NFL’s rebuttal, attached to the end of the report.
The NFL noted that the Buccaneers donated $25,000 to USO Central Florida last year and host an annual “Salute to Service” home game. Players, such as wide receiver Vincent Jackson (though the NFL listed him as a linebacker), have visited the troops overseas.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he will reimburse the Pentagon for money received by teams for the programs.
Here are the top 10 teams to receive money from the Department of Defense for events honoring the military:
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