While NFL players around the nation have begun to protest police brutality by using their freedom of speech to refuse to stand during the National Anthem. The actions by these players have begun a national conversation about patriotism, but has also raised questions about how the government of the United States has been paying NFL teams to be overly patriotic.
This point was brought forth by Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take.” Smith shared the fact that NFL players had not been required to stand for the National Anthem until 2009. He further elaborated on the amount of money spent by the government from to promote patriotism, to the tune of $53 million paid by the Department of Defense. That money was spread between all major sports markets, with around $10 million spent on the NFL.
The money was doled out in a variety of ways. For example the Army National Guard paid the New York Jets $20,000 to use a “Hometown Hero” video on their stadium screen. A report by the United States Senate found the government has 72 contracts with various sports teams for the sole purpose of enacting patriotic events. Senators were not impressed with what they described as “paid patriotism” and wrote in their report:
Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it seems more appropriate that any organization with a genuine interest in honoring them, and deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer. Americans deserve the ability to assume that tributes for our men and women in military uniform are genuine displays of national pride, which many are, rather than taxpayer-funded DOD marketing gimmicks.
The practice, however, shows no signs of stopping and taxpayer funds will likely continue to be funneled to national sports organizations to induce patriotism amongst fans.
Watch Smith’s comments below: