Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Pentagon Paid 10 MLB Teams $900,000 to Be Patriotic

Big week for politics and baseball. The morning after Election Day brought good news for the Rays, Giants, and Lance Berkman, Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona released their report on taxpayer-funded troop tributes at sporting events. We already knew that the Department of Defense was paying NFL teams to honor the troops as a covert recruitment tactic, and Congress banned the use of taxpayer money to pay for military tributes in the latest National Defense Authorization Act. But today's report is the first confirmation we have that the scandal extended to the other major American sport leagues, including MLB. Ten baseball teams were confirmed to have accepted at least $898,085 from the military since fiscal year 2012 for events like saluting the troops or singing God Bless America, and the report points out that there are probably more such instances yet to be discovered. The details:
  • The Atlanta Braves received the most money of any MLB team, $450,000, in exchange for four on-field presentations, including one of those touching "surprise homecoming" ceremonies; sponsorship of multiple "Military Appreciation Days" at Turner Field; and Georgia National Guard members being featured on the Jumbotron.
  • The Boston Red Sox received $100,000 in exchange for Fenway tickets for the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers were paid $80,000 for the Wisconsin National Guard's sponsorship of God Bless America at every Sunday home game; for soldiers and their families to be recognized at games between innings; for troops to have on-field access for an award presentation; and for access to a private suite.
  • The New York Mets received $50,000, including $10,000 toward an on-field swearing-in ceremony.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies received $48,085 from the US Navy in exchange for tickets and credit at the concession stands.
  • The Texas Rangers received $75,000 in exchange for US Air Force color-guard ceremonies at games, game tickets, the ability for Texas National Guardsmen to sing the national anthem, and a special on-field "batting practice night" for Texas National Guard members.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks were paid $40,000 so that members of the Arizona National Guard could go to games, be sworn in at an on-field ceremony, do a color guard demonstration, throw the first pitch, and deliver the scorecard before the game.
  • The Houston Astros were paid $25,000 in exchange for a Texas National Guard Appreciation Night, which included a swearing-in ceremony, as well as dugout seats and a private suite.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates received $18,000 so that a US Air Force soldier could sing the national anthem and Delayed Entry Program members could be sworn in on the field.
  • The Cleveland Indians got $12,000 to host an on-field Air Force swearing-in ceremony.
Nationalism has always been inextricably linked to baseball, but patriotism at ballparks has really reached a fever pitch in the last decade or so. The over-the-top tributes that many teams put on often do feel like marketing campaigns, and now we know why. It's hard not to be cynical about this if you thought that teams were genuinely honoring America.

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