Report: Pentagon paid sports teams millions for patriotic displays, tributes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Patriotic ceremonies at halftime of sporting events may not just be about honoring the troops.

Arizona's two Republican senators said Wednesday that the Defense Department spent more than $10 million in marketing and advertising contracts with professional sports teams between 2012 and 2015.

A new report by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, titled "Tackling Paid Patriotism," calls for an end to the taxpayer-funded practice of sponsoring such military celebrations at games, an effort that is often used for recruiting efforts and community outreach. The report found 72 contracts in which the Pentagon paid for patriotic tributes at professional sports games.

Earlier this year, the senators added a provision to a defense bill barring the Defense Department from entering into paid contracts for honoring members of the Armed Forces at sporting events. Soon after, the Pentagon said it would stop funding and approving contracts in which teams pay to honor members of the Armed Forces.

The report praised that move, but the senators said they wanted to highlight the practice so it is stops once and for all.

Some of the examples mentioned by the report include the Army National Guard paying the Minnesota Vikings football team to sponsor its military appreciation night; the Air Force paying the Cincinnati Bengals football team $4,960 for 60 club level tickets; and the Air Force paying the LA Galaxy soccer team for "recognition of five high ranking officers of the Air Force" in a 2012 game and four sideline season tickets.

The senators noted that much of this money was paid out as the military asked Congress for additional dollars. The report said the ceremonies should be genuine displays of national pride, not taxpayer-funded marketing gimmicks.

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Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick

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