“Tackling paid patriotism”: Pentagon gave sports franchises millions of tax dollars to spread pro-military propaganda
(This article is published in Salon.)
The best kind of patriotism is the compulsory kind. And the best kind of compulsory patriotism is that most American of breeds: “paid patriotism.”
A new report released by Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake exposes just how prominent this is. Titled “Tackling Paid Patriotism,” the congressional investigation provides insight into just how closely linked professional sports franchises and the U.S. military are.
Senate reports tend to be rather humdrum compositions. McCain and Flake may however now have the dubious distinction of releasing the best cover to a congressional inquiry ever made. It portrays a burly athlete, clad in a jersey emblazoned with the senators’ names, tackling a football-wielding Uncle Sam, who wears an argent dollar sign on his uniform.
What is inside the colorful cover is even more striking. According to the senators’ investigation, the Department of Defense (DOD) spent $53 million on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015. More than $10 million was paid to teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS). And at least $6.8 million tax dollars went to pay sports franchises to spread pro-military propaganda.
McCain and Flake called this spending “wholly unnecessary and a waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.” Their report is directed at the American denizen (“Dear taxpayer,” it begins), and, in it, the senators express dismay that “unsuspecting audience members became the subjects of paid-marketing campaigns.”