Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Air Force drill team members perform during halftime at Giants Stadium. (Photo: MarineCorps NewYork/flickr/cc)

Patriotism for Sale: The Pentagon's Pro-War Propaganda Scheme with Pro Sports

Department of Defense said secretive contracts were intended to boost military recruitment

Nadia Prupis

Since 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has paid out more than $10 million to professional sports teams to stage "paid patriotism" events that used taxpayer money to serve the military's recruitment efforts, according to a new government oversight report (pdf) released Wednesday.

The Pentagon contracted with 72 separate sports teams, including those in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), NASCAR, and Major League Soccer, according to the investigation, conducted by Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both from Arizona. The events, which ranged from surprise homecomings and enlistment ceremonies to ceremonial first pitches and wounded warrior tributes, were presented as authentic and voluntary—exploiting audiences and dishonoring "genuine" patriotic partnerships, the report states.

Moreover, the $10.4 million figure is only a fraction of the military's $53 million total reported expenditures on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015. And even those numbers may be under-reported, McCain and Flake found.

Between 2012 and 2015, taxpayers unwittingly paid a total of $879,000 for the DOD's contract with the Atlanta Falcons, who in 2013 welcomed 80 National Guard members to unfurl a massive American flag in the Georgia Dome ahead of the National Anthem for a roaring crowd of spectators.

Elsewhere, the Seattle Sounders pocketed $128,000 to play "a compelling Army National Guard public service message" during games.

And the New England Patriots took $700,000 to honor one Massachusetts Army National Guard (MAARNG) soldier at each home game between 2012 and 2014.

Many of the contracts also included promises of game tickets, access to luxury suites, and gifts, among other perks.

"What is upsetting is when you see activities like this that people assume when they go to games are paid for out of the goodness of the heart by the owners and the teams, and then to find out the taxpayers are paying for it. It kind of cheapens [it] and it's simply not right," Flake said at a news conference Wednesday.

USA Today reports:

The advertising-marketing contracts were intended to help with recruiting efforts, but the military has no hard evidence they were effective. Many of the agreements involved the National Guard. The exact amount of the marketing contracts that went toward activities deemed as paid patriotism could not be determined.

[....] Flake asked in May for records of all marketing contracts since 2012 between military and sports franchises after discovering one between the New Jersey Army National Guard and the New York Jets.

But the material he received from the Pentagon was incomplete and in some cases misleading, the report said. Military officials turned over only about two-thirds of the 122 contracts identified by Senate investigators.

The investigation sent NFL commissioner Roger Goodell scrambling, writing to senators on Monday to promise "an audit of all contracts between our clubs and the military service branches or state National Guard units" and compensation for inappropriate payments, "if we find [them]."

It also expands on a previous report released in May that resulted in changes to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by banning such expenditures. The NDAA was vetoed by President Barack Obama, but Congress is expected to vote on a revised version soon.

"[T]his kind of paid patriotism is wholly unnecessary and a waste and abuse of taxpayer funds, and it must end," Flake and McCain concluded on Wednesday. "Direct and persistent sunlight is the best way to ensure that such activities are not continued. Taxpayers—not the teams—paid for patriotism and VIP perks."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·


West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·


'Texans Deserved Better Than This': Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Ban in Place

The nation's high court set a date to hear a pair of legal challenges to the "horrific" restrictions.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Like It Never Happened': Federal Judge Tosses Trump Attack on Clean Water Rule

Denying a Biden administration request to temporarily retain the rule, the judge reestablished "the careful balance of state and federal power to protect clean water that Congress intended when it wrote the Clean Water Act."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo