John McCain seeks end to defense spending on NFL, pro sports teams

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) proposed an amendment on Thursday to ban the Department of Defense from entering into contracts with professional sports teams in apperance to honor the military at games and events. 

This is in response to news that the Department of Defense spent millions of dollars over the past three years to sponsor military-related promotions with NFL teams. McCain, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, proposed the amendment with a statement on the Senate floor. 

“Along with sports fans across America, I was appalled to learn last month that many of the ceremonies honoring members of our armed services at NFL games are not actually being conducted out of a sense of patriotism, but for profit in the form of millions in taxpayer dollars going from the Department of Defense to wealthy NFL franchises," McCain said. "In fact, NFL teams have received nearly $7 million in taxpayer dollars over the last three years from contracts with the Army National Guard which include public tributes to American troops."

The amendment, H.R. 1735, is being co-sponsored with Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The bill states that "any organization wishing to honor members of the Armed Forces should do so on a voluntary basis, and the Department of Defense should take action to ensure that no payments be made for such activities in the future; and any organization, including the National Football League, that has accepted taxpayer funds to honor members of the Armed Forces should consider directing an equivalent amount of funding in the form of a donation to a charitable organization that supports members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families."

McCain said the Patriots were paid $675,000 for a program called "True Patriot," which honored Army National Guard soldiers at halftime of games. 

In addition, the Falcons received $579,500. The Bills collected $550,000 and five teams, the Bears, Broncos, Colts, Vikings and Chargers, were paid $400,000 or more. Twenty-four teams in total were paid to take part in this ad initiative. 

Falcons owner Arthur Blank previously released a statement in defense of the partnership and argued the Department of Defense's spending ultimately helps their recruiting efforts. 

"Our marketing and sponsorship agreement with the National Guard is designed to fulfill their objectives of increasing awareness and aiding in recruiting efforts, which has become more important in an all-volunteer service environment," Blank said. "This is no different than any other sponsorship agreement in that it is structured to fit a business need."

McCain alleged that while while the Department of Defense was advertising with the NFL, the National Guard Bureau and Army National Guard announced a $101 million shortfall and that there were issues paying soldiers. 

The former 2008 presidential candidate added the NFL was at fault for entering into the contracts, too.

“The NFL raked in revenues totaling some $9.5 billion dollars last year," McCain said. "The absolute least they can do to begin to make up for this misjudgment is return those taxpayer dollars to charities supporting our troops, veterans, and military families."

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