The NFLs Phony Patriotism

On the face of it, the photo looks inspirational: Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman posing next to three men in military uniform. Similar uplifting sighs play across NFL stadiums and jumbo-trons each fall. For deployed troops, catching NFL games on AFN is a little taste of home when away from home. It seems only natural that there should be a relationship between the two.

Yet it turns out that many such gestures to honor our troops are faked and little more than ways for NFL teams to pick up extra money. An investigation by a New Jersey newspaper found that the Pentagon pays NFL teams millions of dollars for such photo-ops.

Here is breakdown of payments to NFL teams since 2011 (which may explain why the Atlanta Falcons appear the most patriotic):

Baltimore Ravens ($799,000) Cincinnati Bengals ($138,960) Cleveland Browns ($22,500) Green Bay Packers ($600,000)Pittsburgh Steelers, ($36,000) Minnesota Vikings($605,000) Atlanta Falcons ($1,049,500) Indianapolis Colts ($620,000) Buffalo Bills ($679,000) Dallas Cowboys ($62,500) Miami Dolphins($20,000) Kansas City Chiefs ($250,000) St. Louis Rams ($60,000) New York Jets ($377,000)

Now, before we rush to judgment, some might say: Well, the NFL is one of the biggest recruiters for the U.S. military. What’s a few million dollars if it generates interest in young teenagers enlisting?For military PR and recruiting, it is understandable and excusable. They have to get their message in front of potential candidates. Others might say that paid promotions are part of the game. What’s the difference between saluting the troops and watching a car insurance ad? The problem is that, unlike, say, a Bud Light spot that purports to “support the troops,” we know the latter is a paid plug, whereas when we cheer on the troops during an NFL game, we think it’s a genuine endorsement for our armed forces by the league, not some kind of quid pro quo that requires play-acting on the part of the NFL.

What’s sickening is that the billionaire owners of these NFL teams actually accepted money, lots of it, to put on a show of support for the troops. Which means it is actually not a show of support at all. Its a business transaction.

The NFL has an ick problem. Everything it touches, from Roger Goodell’s astronomical salary to its cover-up of brain injuries among its players to its see-no-evil approach to domestic violence, is icky. Let’s see if that stops it from making tone-deaf decisions like accepting Pentagon handouts to appear patriotic to its fans.



  1. Robert 11 May, 2015 at 21:26 Reply

    I’m plenty critical of the NFL – and they deserve it on multiple levels – but in this case what’s the big problem?

    The USAF pay for PR & branding across nearly every form of media and in collaboration with hundreds if not thousands of organizations, commercial entities, etc. The NFL is far from the only organization they’ve ‘partnered with” and paid for this sort of thing.

    There are probably a few instances of genuine patriotism mixed in there (say a specific player or owner who personally wants to do something with troops – maybe their dad’s a vet or similar – and gets the ball rolling for an event), but anyone thinking that any sports league’s involvement in that sphere is anything beyond paid PR is seriously naive.

    As is anyone looking to the NFL as some kind of moral touchstone in the first place. They’re a massive entertainment corporation looking to achieve market dominance & make their owners richer – nothing more than that. The patriotic All-American imagery is just pandering. It’s nothing new.

    • Chris Miller 11 May, 2015 at 21:47 Reply

      I see this as a problem. America as a whole has an honesty problem when it comes to patriotism and ‘respecting the troops’ and the NFL and other corporations are not the only ones. Americans in general claim to love the place, but few do anything genuine to show they do anymore. Most hold up examples of things a person is supposed to do as proof they love the country. That stuff doesn’t count. If even the few days a year or the few symbols of our national life that actually mean anything are now just marketing fodder, then I would say we’re in serious trouble. The willingness to accept this faux-patriotism as being ‘just how it is’ is troubling to me. I don’t blame the military for paying; but I do blame the NFL for accepting it. If we all sit around and watch fake spectacles of faux-patriotism, knowing they’re false and accepting it, then what the hell are we even doing anymore. Our whole country is now nothing more than a business. Some people think that is true and are willing to accept that. I’m not. The Roman Empire fell when everybody stopped believing in it and caring about it. We might soon go the way of the Romans if we all continue to accept this spoon-fed BS.

    • J 14 July, 2015 at 14:47 Reply

      Here’s the problem: Why should we have to pay for it? Like, what do we the American people who are footing the bill for this actually receive in exchange for this? We’re paying private organizations (in the NFL, ridiculously, a supposedly ‘non-profit’ organization) to say nice things about our own military.

      “They’re a massive entertainment corporation looking to achieve market dominance & make their owners richer – nothing more than that.”

      Sure, except for, as I said, that WE are the ones making their owners richer in this case.

      “The patriotic All-American imagery is just pandering. It’s nothing new.”

      Okay. So why not make it an optional donation on our tax forms?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *