The Atlanta Falcons will no longer accept money from any military branch for advertising, the team's owner said Friday.
“We’ll do whatever we can to help in recruiting for all branches of the Armed Services,” Arthur Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But we’re not going to bill anybody for anything.”
The decision is in response to a November report from Arizona Republican Sens. John McCainJohn McCainDemocrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war McCain: Trump admin must fill State Dept. jobs McCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration MORE and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOvernight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs Senate votes to block internet privacy regulations MORE that slammed what they termed as “paid patriotism,” when the Defense Department pays for patriotic showings at sporting events such as troop homecomings or singing the national anthem.
But Blank said he would go further and not accept money for advertising or marketing still allowed under the law.
“We don’t want any confusion about it,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “We’re not going to accept any more monies under any contracts.”
The Falcons will instead offer unpaid advertising and other community outreach, he said.
The Falcons received the most money of any team named in McCain and Flake’s report. Marketing contracts with the Georgia Army National Guard for 2012 through 2015 were worth $879,000, according to the report.
The contracts included a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by a member of the National Guard, an opportunity for 80 National Guard members to hold a large American flag on the field and recognition of the Army National Guard’s birthday, among other events.
Blank previously defended the contracts.
“Our marketing and sponsorship agreement with the National Guard is designed to fulfill their objectives of increasing awareness and aiding in recruiting efforts, which has become more important in an all-volunteer service environment,” he said in a May letter included with the senators’ report. “This is no different than any other sponsorship agreement in that it is structured to fit a business need.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has separately promised to conduct an audit and reimburse any inappropriate payments found.