Blumenthal calls for end to ‘Paid Patriotism’

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SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 11: The US Military carried out pregame ceremonies in honor of September 11th before the St Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers NFL game at Monster Park on September 11, 2005 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

NEW HAVEN — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is joining the list of critics calling for an end to using taxpayer dollars to fund patriotic displays at professional sporting events, including the NFL.

Monday morning at 11:30 a.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New Haven, Sen. Blumenthal is expected to discuss the introduction of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which will ban the Pentagon from spending taxpayer money on these military tributes at professional sporting events.

“Honoring our nation’s heroes should be done without fattening the bottom lines of big sports businesses. The millions of dollars now paid to promoters and profits should go instead to help the great heroes who have kept us free and made us strong. Pay for patriotism is a disservice to their service and sacrifice,” said Blumenthal.

A new congressional report says the Department of Defense has paid millions of dollars to sports teams for military tributes at games.

Close to $9 million was spent over the last four years including nearly $700,000 at New England Patriot games in what the report called “paid patriotism.”
U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, are leading the charge and raise questions regarding paid events that include on-field color guard presentations during the national anthem, unfurling of a giant flag by members of the military, luxury suites, cheerleader appearances and ceremonial first pitches.

“There’s a lot of good things that professional sports do to honor our men and women who serve in the military,” said Sen. McCain. “But these millions of dollars are not acceptable.”

Added Sen. Flake, “When you find specific contracts outlining some of these activities that are being compensated for, then there’s a problem.”

The report also shows that the Department of Defense has also paid big bucks to Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NBA and NHL. Lawmakers are calling for teams that accepted taxpayer dollars for military tributes to donate the proceeds to charity.