What better way to advertise military culture—and recruit teenagers—than by staging heartfelt salutes to "hometown heroes" at professional football games in front of thousands of fans?
That, apparently, is what Department of Defense officials thought when they shelled out at least $5.4 million of U.S. taxpayer' money to 14 NFL teams between 2011 and 2014—to pay them to promote the military on and off the field.
The vast majority of this money was disbursed by the National Guard, journalists Christopher Baxter and Jonathan D. Salant of New Jersey Advance Media revealed in an article published Thursday.
The New York Jets, for example, accepted at least $377,000 between 2011 and 2014 to stage public salutes to veterans. A formal "Statement of Work" agreement between the Jets and the New Jersey National Guard exposes some of the team's commitments, made between 2012 and 2013, in exchange for money. The following items are quoted from the deal:
- A videoboard feature – Hometown Hero. For each of their 8 home game, the Jets will recognize 1-2 [New Jersey National Guard] Soldiers as Home Town Heroes. Their picture will be displayed on the videoboard, their name will be announced over the loud speaker, and they will be allowed to watch the game, along with 3 friends or family members, from the Coaches Club.
- Place 500,000 Digital Banner impressions on the New York Jets website
- Kickoff each Home game with “Into Battle” Video Feature with Soldier/Crowd prompts
- [New Jersey National Guard] Branding on every Monitor, specifically 3 Minutes of IPTV L-wraps, in Met Life Stadium for each NY Jets 2012-2013 Season Home Game.
- Salute to Service Gameday Activation with enhanced presentation on Military Appreciation Game (DEC 2012)
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The list of advertising and promotion commitments goes on, as does the roster of teams that have agreed to such deals. The Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens are among the NFL teams that have engaged in similar transactions with the National Guard.
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has jumped on the revelations as examples of "egregious and unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars by the New Jersey Army National Guard."
But Matt Stys, an Iraq veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War based in Colorado, told Common Dreams that the revelations point to something far more insidious: the permeation of military propaganda into every aspect of U.S. life.