According to a report released by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the American military shelled out $6.8 million of taxpayer funds to sports teams over the past four years to put on patriotic events during games.
Among the events that the Pentagon financed were color guards, giant displays of the American flag and recognition for veterans on stadium video boards. Teams often did not disclose that the Department of Defense was paying for the events.
“What is upsetting is when you see activities like this that people assume when they go to games are paid for out of the goodness of the heart by the owners and the teams, and then to find out the taxpayers are paying for it. It kind of cheapens (it) and it’s simply not right," Flake said at a news conference, according to USA Today.
The Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots received the most from the Department of Defense, coming in at $879,000 and $700,000 respectively. The military paid $1.6 million to NASCAR, and provided funds to teams in the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB and MLS.
According to the report, the Department of Defense maintains that its in-game marketing efforts are essential to its recruitment efforts, but could not demonstrate how "paid patriotism" is contributing to its recruitment efforts.
Though this $6.8 million is a miniscule portion of the military's $600 billion budget, both McCain and Flake feel the funds could be better spent.
"We are shining a bright light on this waste and abuse of taxpayer funds to ensure this practice is stopped once and for all, so that the taxpayer dollars allocated for national defense are actually spent on our brave men and women in uniform who are selflessly serving their country, not boondoggles," the report reads.
According to a report from Bloomberg News, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league intends to refund the money the teams received for in-game tributes
.@NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says league intends to refund money its teams received for paid patriotism, like tributes to U.S. troops
— Eben Novy-Williams (@novy_williams) November 4, 2015
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.