The Senate approved a bipartisan measure that would prevent the Defense Department from paying the National Football League and other professional sports teams for saluting soldiers, pregame re-enlistment ceremonies and on-field flag rollouts.
The amendment that was added to the annual defense authorization bill was authored by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the National Journal is reporting.
The Defense Department has paid almost $7 million over the last three years to cover the costs of this practice, which some refer to as "paid-for-patriotism."
The measure also encourages
the NFL teams to return the money by giving it to charities that support the troops, veterans and their families.
McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the practice deceives fans into believing that such events are sponsored by the NFL teams and are a symbol of their patriotism.
"Every fan, whether united by team or divided by rivalry, comes together to thank those who have served and sacrificed on our nation's behalf," the Arizona Republican told the National Journal.
"That's why I and so many other Americans were shocked and disappointed to learn that several NFL teams weren't sponsoring these activities out of the goodness of their own hearts but were doing so to make an extra buck," McCain said.
In a speech on the Senate floor, McCain said that "What makes these expenditures all the more troubling is that at the same time the Guard was spending millions on pro sports advertising, it was also running out of money for critical training for our troops," Stars and Stripes is reporting.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy fired back at the amendment, saying that it "paints a completely distorted picture of the relationship between NFL teams and our military," the Chicago Sun Times is reporting.
"We agree that no one should be paid to honor our troops,” McCarthy told the Times. "Military spending on recruiting efforts should not be confused with programs that support our nation’s active military and veterans."
"The NFL’s long history of honoring and supporting our troops will continue because it is the right thing to do," he said.
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