Senate votes to block NFL ‘patriotism for profit’

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The Senate voted Thursday to block the Defense Department from spending taxpayer money on honoring the military at sporting events. 
The amendment, which passed by unanimous consent as part of an annual defense policy bill, comes in the wake of reports the Pentagon spent millions in federal funds for NFL teams to honor troops during games. 
{mosads}Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said earlier Thursday that NFL teams had received nearly $7 million in taxpayer dollars during the past three years from Army National Guard contracts, which included publicly honoring troops. 
McCain sponsored the amendment, along with Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), referring to the practice as “patriotism for profit.” 
“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 it to make an extra buck,” he said. “Taking money from the American taxpayers in exchange for honoring American troops.”
The three said in a statement that their amendment also asks for any teams that received the taxpayer dollars to donate an equal amount to charities that support troops, veterans and their families.  

“We can’t afford to give scarce defense dollars to wealthy sports teams, and fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored on Sundays because of their honorable military service, not as an NFL marketing ploy,” they said. 

Instead, any organization that wants to honor troops “should do so on a voluntary basis, and the Department of Defense should take action to ensure no payments be made for such activities in the future,” according to the legislation. 
But the legislation notes the Defense Department can still work to publicly honor soldiers on a pro-bono basis or using non-taxpayer funds.
“This amendment paints a completely distorted picture of the relationship between NFL teams and our military,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement provided to The Hill. “We agree that no one should be paid to honor our troops.” 
“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.”

—Updated at 8:55 p.m. 

Tags John McCain National Football League Sports
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