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Senators Want Military To End ‘Patriotism For Profit’ Program

Several senators are attempting to ban the Department of Defense from spending tax dollars to honor veterans at sporting events, saying patriotism should not depend on profit.

“Football fans across America learned last month that several NFL teams were honoring U.S. service members not out of a sense of patriotism, but for profit in the form of millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Defense,” according to a joint statement by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

In response, the senators filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act Thursday that would prohibit the DOD from continuing the practice. (RELATED: NFL Teams Will Honor Veterans … For a Price)

The issue first attracted attention in May, when Flake sent a letter to DOD officials reporting that an investigation conducted by his office had discovered that the Pentagon has been paying major league sports teams to honor current and former service members during sporting events.

Flake reported that the Pentagon has deals with almost every major sports league—including the MLB, NBA, NASCAR, Major League Soccer, and NCAA—but most notably with the NFL. A follow-up investigation by NJ.com determined that between 2011 and 2014, 15 NFL teams made over $6 million from promotional contracts with the military. (RELATED: Super Bowl Shines Spotlight on Stadium Subsidies)

“In a time of growing threats to our nation’s security, we can’t afford to give scarce defense dollars to wealthy sports teams,” the senators said. “Fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored on Sundays because of their honorable military service, not as an NFL marketing ploy.”

The military, for its part, contends that the money was well spent, saying that promotions during sporting events drive recruitment. (RELATED: Commentator: NFL Exploits ‘Religious-Like Following’ to Secure Favors From Government)

“Promoting and increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks and garners public support for our Hometown Team,” New Jersey National Guard spokesman Patrick Daugherty told NJ.com.

That argument did not seem to have much impact on lawmakers, however, according to USA Today. The amendment was approved by a voice vote Thursday, and will be included in the Senate’s defense policy legislation.

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