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McCain urges sports leagues to return 'paid patriotism' money

McCain urges sports leagues to return 'paid patriotism' money
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Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRepublicans have dumped Reagan for Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE (R-Ariz.) is urging the country's pro sports leagues to return taxpayer money the Pentagon paid them to honor the military at sporting events.

“Any organization with a genuine interest in honoring the troops, and deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer,” McCain wrote in letters to Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL).

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“I urge you to take the steps necessary to ensure that these paid patriotism activities do not continue.”

The letters, sent Thursday, come after the National Football League (NFL) pledged to return $723,734 after an audit found the money was used to pay for activities honoring the military.

In November, McCain and fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Republican reactions to Cheney's removal Flake: No greater offense than honesty in today's Republican Party Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE released a report slamming the payments as “paid patriotism.” The report found Pentagon marketing contracts with sports leagues worth $6.8 million paid for events such performances of “God Bless America,” honoring hometown heroes and unfurling full-field flags.

For example, in his letter to his letter to the MLB, McCain highlighted a 2014 contract where the Wisconsin Army National Guard paid the Milwaukee Brewers $49,000 to sponsor performances of “God Bless America,” $10,000 to recognize soldiers and their families, and $7,500 for an on-field award presentation and the opportunity throw out the first pitch.

For the other leagues, McCain highlighted a 2015 contract where the Utah Army National Guard paid the soccer team Real Salt Lake for a military appreciation night with pregame and halftime ceremonies; a 2013 contract where the Georgia Army National Guard paid the Atlanta Hawks basketball team to perform color guard ceremonies at three home games; and a 2013 contract where the Massachusetts Army National Guard paid the Boston Bruins hockey team to perform the national anthem, color guard and reenlistment ceremonies.

“Such examples are a clear misuse of taxpayer dollars,” McCain wrote.

The leagues should follow the NFL’s lead and conduct a full review of its Defense Department contracts, McCain wrote.

The leagues should then either return the money or donate it to a charity that serves troops and veterans, he added.

“I know that the [MLB, MLS, NBA and NHL] and its teams undertake numerous charitable activities already,” McCain concluded, “but I believe that would be a fitting gesture, given the highly questionable nature of some of the activities that have occurred.”