‘Paid Patriotism’

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The National Football League is embroiled in yet another scandal, taking millions of dollars of taxpayer money as payment to honor troops and veterans during game day activities.

Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona call it, "Paid Patriotism" by the billionaire owners of professional sports teams.

An example is $49,000 to the Milwaukee Brewers for the Wisconsin National Guard to sponsor Sunday performances of "God Bless America."

The Department of Defense defended the practice, saying it’s an effective recruitment tool, but couldn’t back it up with numbers.

In recent years, $6.8 million went to professional sports franchises, including 18 NFL teams that were part of this "Patriotism for Profit."

The Senators cited 10 teams that split $5.1 million. Topping that list was the Atlanta Falcons at $879,000, $700,000 to the Patriots, $650,000 to the Bills and $453,500 from the California National Guard to the San Diego Chargers.

Senators McCain and Flake said the Department of Defense shouldn’t have spent this money and the sports teams shouldn’t have accepted it.

"When you see activities like this that people assume when they go to games are paid for out of the goodness of their heart by the owners and the teams, then to find out that the taxpayers are paying for it it cheapens the whole lot," Senator Flake said.

Senator McCain said this crosses the line between heartfelt gestures of good will and paid advertisements.

"They obviously should not be doing this, we appreciate that they honor the men and women in uniform, but not to get paid for it," Senator McCain said. "It would be entirely appropriate for the sports teams that were providing these fundings of taxpayers dollars to donate those monies to a worthy cause, causes like wounded warriors."

Did the service members participating in these field ceremonies know the teams were being paid?

"I’ve only talked to a few of them but the ones we’ve heard from obviously they did not know that their appearances were being used in a way that would monetarily benefit the teams that were sponsoring the events," Senator McCain said.

And what about team owners and management? Did they know?

"We’re not placing blame solely on the teams at all. The dept of defense certainly should know better than to do this," Senator Flake said.

"Many of the owners or even team management didn’t know but they should have known, they should have knows that this was going on," Senator McCain said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league encourages the clubs to promote recruitment efforts and will conduct an audit of all these contracts.

If inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded.

The Chargers’ PR Department would not comment, referring instead to the commissioner’s letter calling for an audit and refunding any inappropriate payments.

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