Big League Honors, Big Price Tag

The Air Force and other military services have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to professional sports teams for tickets, recognition, and the opportunity to perform flag details and on-field swearing-in ceremonies, according to a new report released by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake (both R-Ariz.). The report, called “Tackling Paid Patriotism,” details how the Air Force and other services entered into contracts with baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and soccer teams, as well as NASCAR, and some of the things those contracts paid for. For example, the Air Force paid the Mets $51,000, of which $10,000 was for the opportunity to perform an on-field swearing-in ceremony in Fiscal 2014, according to the report. “This not only betrays the sentiment and trust of fans, but casts an unfortunate shadow over the genuine patriotic partnerships that do so much for our troops, such as the National Football League’s Salute to the Service campaign,” the report states. Matthew Allen, a Defense Department spokesman, said the military services may pay for marketing or sponsorships, but that as of Sept. 14, all sports marketing or sports-related event contracts must be reviewed by a senior reviewing official, and no sports-related contracts that require a service or component to pay to honor members of the armed forces can be funded or approved.