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Volume 26 No. 176
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Questions Arise Over Military Paying For Tributes At Sporting Events

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) yesterday "asked the Department of Defense to supply the total amount it has paid pro leagues and franchises" since FY '09 to "present promotional material and details on the number of paid salutes for honoring members of the armed services and the amount spent on such salutes," according to Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY. Flake, in a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and National Guard Bureau Chief Frank Gross, wrote, "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." Myerberg notes several NFL teams "are involved in relationships with the military." National Guard Maj. Earl Brown said that the organization "will devote" $1.266M to NFL advertising during FY '15 (USA TODAY, 5/12). In Phoenix, EJ Montini notes Flake's office "found out that a number of NFL teams were 'honoring' U.S. servicemen and servicewomen only after they were paid to do so" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/12). Flake yesterday said, "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." National Guard Media Relations Chief Rick Breitenfeldt: "This isn't, as some might think, payment for unfurling a flag or to welcome a soldier home on the field. This is more about spending for marketing and advertising, for signage, for website takeovers." He added, "We have hundreds of (sponsorship agreements) with teams, including minor league baseball and at high schools. We have found that spending in sports to help us recruit in our 18-24 demographic works out for us."'s Darren Rovell noted part of the criticism "arose from the fact that the National Guard couldn't prove any return on its investment in recruiting." The Department of Defense paid $5.4M "in sponsorship deals with various NFL teams" from '11-14 (, 5/11).


DEAL OR NO DEAL? In L.A., Fenno & Zarembo note promoting the military "is good publicity for any business these days." The Iron Dog snow mobile race in Alaska "got $200,000" from the National Guard, "as did" Kansas Speedway, while the Bruins $130,000 and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association received $50,000. Brown said that the Guard "has reduced spending on sports marketing by about 70% in the last two years, primarily by ending" its $32.2M sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a $12.7M deal with IndyCar driver Graham Rahal in '14. Brown: "We have to be able to stretch our reach as far as we can." Fenno & Zarembo note the Angels and Dodgers "salute military members during games, but work with nonmilitary sponsors." Nationals fans "routinely give the service members a standing ovation when they're introduced at the end of the third inning." But a team spokesperson said that the club does not "receive payment." An NHL spokesperson said that no money "changes hands when a military member is spotlighted on the ice or in the stands at a game" (L.A. TIMES, 5/12). The Falcons, whose $1M received was more than any other NFL team, in an e-mail wrote that their annual "Military Appreciation" game is "usually sponsored by a large business partner and other events, such as an annual fishing trip with military veterans are unpaid and part of ongoing community outreach efforts." The Braves "would not say what the National Guard pays" them (, 5/11). The Packers said that they "make no secret of National Guard or other sponsorships for military events at Lambeau Field." Packers Dir of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey said that sponsors’ names and logos "may be included on programs, signs, free handouts, video boards and announced over the public address system." Popkey: "It’s clear these elements have a sponsor when they do have a sponsor." Wisconsin National Guard Dir of Public Affairs Maj. Paul Rickert: "To say the bulk of that cost was to have members appear would not be accurate" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 5/12).

PAYBACK TIME: New Jersey State Sen. Joe Pennacchio yesterday said that he will "introduce a resolution urging the Jets and 13 other NFL teams to donate" the $5.4M in federal taxpayer money they were given from '11-14 "for military advertising, including honoring soldiers." The Jets "were paid $377,500 by the New Jersey Army National Guard for services including a 'Hometown Hero' segment during home games, in which one or two soldiers were honored on the big screen and thanked for their service" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/12).