MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Move over ‘deflate gate’, the NFL is having to deal with a new scandal involving what some have termed “paid patriotism.”
Arizona’s two senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, say the Pentagon is using tax payer money to pay pro-sports teams to stage events to honor the troops.
According to Flake and McCain, the defense department has 122 marketing deals with pro sports teams worth $10.4 million. Of those, the senators say 72 had items they called “paid patriotism.” For example, the Milwaukee Brewers were given $7,500 for award presentations on the field for National Guard members and ceremonial first pitches at three home games.
“The Department of Defense is always saying we’re strapped for funds,” said Flake, “Then we find out that in some cases they’re paying for these paid tributes on the field.”
According to a report in ESPN last May, the Atlanta Falcons were at the top of the list for receiving money from the defense department. They took in more than a million dollars. Also high on the list were the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers.
In last place on the list were the Miami Dolphins, who reported received $20,000.
The team said they’ve already addressed the allegations.
“Our $20,000 partnership in 2013 was an advertising relationship primarily to support several youth football and community initiatives that benefit South Florida students. With that said the Dolphins have a long history of supporting military efforts since the inception of our franchise and will continue to recognize and honor the accomplishments and contributions of our servicemen and women,” said Dolphins’ spokesman Jason Jenkins.
All of the professional sports leagues have denied being paid for on-field tributes.
The NFL has launched and audit and said “If we find that inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded in full.”
The NBA said, “We will perform an additional review to ensure that this is the case.”
Major League Baseball said it has encouraged teams “…to take steps to avoid any appearance that they are being paid”
When asked whether they’ve accepting any funds from the defense department for military tributes, the Florida Panthers scoffed at the idea.
“We don’t have any sponsorship agreements with any of the armed services, and everything that we do in honoring troops is purely on our own dime, if you want to call it that,” Florida Panthers Chief Operation Officer Matt Caldwell told Sports Illustrated. “We do a Heroes Among Us program where we honor a veteran every game, we bring them on the ice during the National Anthem, provide a Panthers jersey, buy tickets for him and his family. It’s something we take really seriously.”
”For us right now, we have nothing in place, and everything we do every game is purely to honor troops,” Caldwell added. “Nothing to do with some back-end payment that we’re getting.”
Caldwell pointed out that the owner of the team, Vinnie Viola, was a West Point graduate and an Army Ranger. He added that they have six veterans in the Panthers organization including himself and Eric Joyce who’s the assistant General Manager.
The Pentagon has vowed to end the practice giving money to teams and the Arizona senators say they are pushing legislation to ban it.