U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) is not happy about the National Guard’s sponsorship deals with various NFL teams. At the heart of the issue is the fact the Department of Defense typically pays teams to honor servicemen and servicewomen, but does not disclose it.
“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”
According to Darren Rovell, the National Guard paid out $5.4 million for sponsorship deals with 14 different NFL teams between 2011-2014. The maximum was $1 million paid to the Atlanta Falcons.
“This isn’t, as some might think, payment for unfurling a flag or to welcome a soldier home on the field,” National Guard spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt said. “This is more about spending for marketing and advertising, for signage, for website takeovers.”
Breitenfeldt said the National Guard has already spent $1.2 million this fiscal year, spread across 10 NFL teams.
“We have hundreds of [sponsorship agreements] with teams, including minor league baseball and at high schools,” Breitenfeldt said. “We have found that spending in sports to help us recruit in our 18-24 demographic works out for us.”