Those touching military tributes that you see at professional sporting events apparently come with a big price tag and, according to a new report from a couple of U.S. senators, professional sports teams have been cashing in.
Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake released a report Wednesday highlighting that the Pentagon has spent at least $6.8 million since 2012 on contracts with sports teams for those patriotic displays, which included things like welcome home ceremonies, on-field parades, enlistment ceremonies and ceremonial first pitches or puck drops.
The report says the events may have been paid for by the Pentagon as part of a multimillion-dollar program to promote the armed services and boost recruitment.
In the report, McCain and Flake write:
"Unsuspecting audience members became the subjects of paid-marketing campaigns rather than simply bearing witness to teams' authentic, voluntary shows of support for the brave men and women who wear our nation's uniform."
The paid promotions involved many teams from every major professional sport – including three from Minnesota.
Minnesota Wild – $570,000
According to the report (page 64), the Minnesota Wild received more than any other in-state or any other NHL team, with a total of $570,000 from 2012-2015.
Only the Atlanta Falcons ($879,000), New England Patriots ($700,000), and Buffalo Bills ($650,000) received more money than the Wild.
The report says the "paid-patriotism" perks included:
- On-ice soldier appreciation ceremony for up to 20 members of the Minnesota Army National Guard during intermission of a Wild home game (2014)
- Color guard ceremony and opportunity for a solider to rappel from the catwalk to deliver the game puck (2012, 2013, 2015)
- Recognition of a "soldier of the game" and flag bearer highlighted on the center scoreboard for regular season and postseason home games (2012, 2013, 2015)
- Special recognition during presenting night (2013-2015)
Minnesota Vikings – $375,000
The report says (page 23) the Vikings received a total of $375,000 from contracts with the Minnesota Army National Guard in 2012 and 2013. Those contracts totaled $225,000 in 2012 and $150,000 in 2013.
- Color guard ceremonies in 2012 and 2013
- Recognition of a "soldier of the game" at each Vikings home game in 2012
- Additional exposure for the Minnesota Army National Guard during a military appreciation game in 2012, 2013.
In a statement to KSTP, the Vikings said they have sincerely supported and honored the state's servicemen and women for over a decade.
"While the Vikings relationship with the Minnesota National Guard extends more than 10 years, from 2009-2013, the National Guard chose to pursue traditional paid advertising elements, including digital signage, gate signage, video board and game program ads, as well as online advertising, for recruitment and retention purposes. In 2011 and 2012, the National Guard desired presenting rights during existing military recognition ceremonies and wanted to brad the team's 'Soldier of the Game' moments, which have occurred in Vikings games for 11 consecutive years."
The Vikings added that they have continued their robust efforts to honor military personnel and families in 2014 and 2015 while the National Guard has not advertised during Vikings games.
Minnesota Timberwolves/Lynx – $27,000
The report says (page 52) the Minnesota Army National Guard sponsored a military night at one Lynx home game. That night included:
- One swearing-in ceremony
- Recognition of two National Guard soldiers
- A color guard ceremony
- One soldier rappelling from the arena catwalk while another soldier performed the national anthem (2014)
The Wolves also responded to KSTP.
"The Timberwolves do NOT currently have a paid, sponsorship deal with any of the military branches and haven't in several years. We do many military tributes but do not charge money for those occasions."