BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Patriotic ceremonies in professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey games may not just be about honoring the troops.
According to a new report from Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, the Defense Department spent $6.8 million of taxpayer money on sports marketing contracts since fiscal year 2012.READ MORE: 2 Extricated From Car After Crash In Medford
Of that money, $700,000 went to the New England Patriots that covered game tickets, tailgate passes, training camp passes and use of a hospitality suite, the report found.
The Patriots were second overall on the list, behind the Atlanta Falcons, who received $879,000, the most any team got from the Pentagon.
The Boston Bruins reportedly received $280,000 for expenses which included access to a TD Garden luxury box for 18 people and one executive view suite for 25 people on a military appreciation night.
The probe claims the Boston Celtics were given $195,000 for game tickets and sponsorship of events such as a military appreciation month.
“We are proud of our longstanding commitment to honoring the brave men and women of our military. We honor our military through several team-funded programs that include ticket donations from our staff and fans, facilitating career fairs for military servicemen and women, videoconferencing overseas soldiers with their families, among other initiatives,” a Celtics spokesperson told WBZ-TV in a statement Thursday.
“Independent of these efforts, we have also had a multi-year marketing partnership with the Army National Guard, which does not currently, but has in the past, included in-game recognition of military personnel. Our goal with ANG, as with any of our partners, has been to put together programs that help them achieve their objectives within their marketing budgets. ”
RED SOX $100,000
The Red Sox received $100,000, according to the McCain-Flake investigation.
“The pregame ceremonies and in-game tributes honoring members of the armed forces at Fenway Park are not part of a military-sponsored program. Military featured at the ballpark before and during games are chosen based on their accomplishments in uniform, and in consultation with our partners at John Hancock, who sponsor the in-game “Hats Off to Heroes” tribute,” a Red Sox spokesperson told WBZ-TV Thursday.
“The Red Sox’ longstanding sponsorship agreement with the Mass. National Guard, which is highlighted in the report, is for marketing and advertising of the Guard – specifically LED advertising and in-park tabling – not for pregame ceremonies or military honors during the game.”READ MORE: Candlelight Vigil Held In Memory Of 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis; Autopsy Confirms ID
The report, titled “Tackling Paid Patriotism,” calls for an end to the taxpayer-funded practice of sponsoring such military celebrations at games, an effort that is often used for recruiting efforts and community outreach.
The report found 72 contracts in which the Pentagon paid for patriotic tributes at professional sports games.
PENTAGON FUNDING ENDED
Earlier this year, the senators added a provision to a defense bill barring the Defense Department from entering into paid contracts for honoring members of the Armed Forces at sporting events. Soon after, the Pentagon said it would stop funding and approving contracts in which teams pay to honor members of the Armed Forces.
The report praised that move, but the senators said they wanted to highlight the practice so it is stops once and for all.
Other examples mentioned by the report include the Army National Guard paying the Minnesota Vikings to sponsor its military appreciation night; the Air Force paying the Cincinnati Bengals $4,960 for 60 club level tickets; and the Air Force paying the LA Galaxy for “recognition of five high ranking officers of the Air Force” in a 2012 game and four sideline season tickets.
The senators noted that much of this money was paid out as the military asked Congress for additional dollars.
The report said the ceremonies should be genuine displays of national pride, not taxpayer-funded marketing gimmicks.
“Current agreements with the Massachusetts National Guard and Massachusetts professional sports teams are marketing and advertising. Our relationships through these partnerships are an important role in helping us build strong community relations,” Lt. Col. James Sahady of the Massachusetts National Guard told WBZ.
“The partnerships provide the Massachusetts National Guard with significant capability to reach our local and regional audience highlighting the capabilities our force and service members provide to the commonwealth and nation.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports
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