Recently, the National Football League announced plans to return hundreds of thousands of dollars received from the United States military for putting on performances and other considerations at NFL games.
According to the report, the NFL will be giving back more than $700,000 of taxpayers’ money paid to various teams for military tributes sponsored by various branches of the service as recruiting tools. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell promised to return the money promptly … on the heels of a massive PR scandal after the payouts were initially reported in 2015.
The issue came to light after a routine investigation of the Department of Defense revealed the DOD could not account for millions of dollars that had been spent. Arizona Senators Flake and McCain dug deeper, determining two things. One, much of the unaccounted-for cash was spent on “legitimate recruiting efforts” while some of it – millions, actually – were paid to various different professional sports leagues for performances and displays at games.
The Senators looked at more than 100 contracts and determined that at least 72 of them were for “paid patriotism.” These efforts included perks ranging from free tickets to pre-game ceremonies, to club seats, center-court seats, and luxury box seats for various service members, including five high-ranking officers.
These revelations triggered an official congressional investigation led by Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, which disclosed the results of an audit of about 100 marketing agreements between the service branches and various NFL properties over a three-year period.
Goodell promised to give back $723,734 and to oversee closer and more frequent audits into marketing activities by the league and its teams. Interestingly, Sen. Flake praised the NFL’s action in this case.
In a prepared statement, Sen. Flake said, “In all the years I’ve spent rooting out egregious federal spending, the NFL is the first organization to perform due diligence, take responsibility, and return misspent funds to the taxpayers… The NFL’s response to this investigation sets a new standard and only strengthens its reputation as a supporter of our nation’s military service members and veterans.”
While Flake said the so-called “paid patriotism” was a bad thing, he was pleased the NFL chose to pay the money back. Whether or not this action “sets a new standard” is yet to be seen.