Does your heart swell with pride when an American flag is unfurled at a major sporting event? If so, know that you paid for the sensation. The Pentagon has shelled out about $10 million to sports franchises over the past five years for advertising and promotion, including $6.8 million that went toward staging "paid patriotism" events such as enlistment ceremonies and the reunions of soldiers and their families, report Bloomberg and USA Today. The finding comes in a scathing report from Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, which describes the spending as "inappropriate and frivolous," per NBC News. More than $6 million went to NFL teams, including almost $900,000 to the Atlanta Falcons. The team was paid $315,000 for a single event in 2013, during which an American flag was spread across the Georgia Dome's field.
People assume the events "are paid for out of the goodness of the heart by the owners and the teams," Flake says. "To find out taxpayers are paying for it, it cheapens the whole lot." Back in July, the acting undersecretary of defense told Flake that it was difficult to meet recruiting goals with the upturn in the economy and that "sports events are an important component of this process." However, the military couldn't produce any evidence that their efforts worked. McCain suggested teams donate received funds to a charity supporting veterans, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league will conduct an internal audit and refund any "inappropriate" payments. The senators now plan to ban such services in a defense appropriations bill.