The Pentagon paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million to 'salute troops'

Military football nflReutersMembers of the U.S. military lead the New England Patriots onto the field ahead of the start of the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona February 1, 2015.

The NFL reportedly accepted millions of dollars from the defence department over the course of three years in exchange for honouring troops and veterans before games, the New Jersey Star Ledger reports.

The Pentagon reportedly signed contracts with 14 NFL teams — including the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens — between 2011-2012 stipulating that teams would be paid sums ranging from $US60,000-$US1 million each (in federal taxpayer money) to pause before the start of games and salute the city’s “hometown heroes,” according to nj.com.

Agreements also include advertising on stadium screens and sideline ‘Coaches Club’ seats for soldiers.

Congress and the President recently imposed strict caps on military spending as part of an austere new budget.

The military has defended the funding it provides to the NFL, stating that it is an effective recruitment tool for soldiers.

“Promoting and increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks,” National Guard spokesman Patrick Daugherty told nj.com, referring to the $US377,000 the Jets received from the Jersey Guard between 2011-2014.

Nfl veteransOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMembers of the Seattle Seahawks run onto the field during ceremonies honouring veterans prior to the game against the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field on November 11, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.

Other teams thatreceived taxpayer fundsinclude the Cincinnati Bengals ($US138,960) Cleveland Browns ($US22,500), the Green Bay Packers ($US600,000), Pittsburgh Steelers, ($US36,000) Minnesota Vikings ($US605,000), Atlanta Falcons ($US1,049,500), Buffalo Bills ($US679,000), Dallas Cowboys ($US62,500), Miami Dolphins ($US20,000), and St. Louis Rams ($US60,000), according to a nj.com breakdown.

New Jersey senator Joe Pennachhio has since called for the teams to donate the money to charity.

“If these teams want to really honour our veterans and service members they should be making these patriotic overtures out of gratitude for free,” Pennachhio told nj.com. “And the millions of dollars that have already been billed to taxpayers should be donated to veterans’ organisations.”

The payments are being criticised by some who say that the practice is not only unethical, but also hypocritical — citing a renewed focus on integrity and transparency, the NFL fined the New England Patriots $US1 million and suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the team’s alleged role in deflating footballs before games.

Many fans are aware that the NFL is a leading recruitment tool for the military — the National Guard advertisements displayed on stadium screens are clearly sponsored content.

But few fans know that the defence department is funelling taxpayer money into the NFL in exchange for veteran tributes.

“The public believes they’re doing it as a public service or a sense of patriotism,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told the Star Ledger. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

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