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NFL Responds to Flake-McCain Paid Patriotism Investigation, Returns $723,000 to Taxpayers Featured

By Elizabeth Berry May 19, 2016 1191

NFL-Commissioned External Audit Confirms Allegations DOD Funds Were Spent to Honor Military


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced that they have received a commitment from the National Football League (NFL) for the return of taxpayer dollars paid by the Department of Defense (DOD) to NFL clubs to honor military service members at league games and events.

In a letter dated May 18, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell notified Flake and McCain that an external audit to evaluate the contracts between NFL clubs and the DOD “identified $723,734 over those four seasons that may have been mistakenly applied to appreciation activities rather than recruitment efforts. This amount will be promptly returned in full to the taxpayers.”

The NFL’s audit came in response to a November 2015 joint oversight report in which both senators exposed widespread evidence that the DOD has been paying professional sports teams in the NFL, Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Soccer (MLS) to honor American soldiers at sporting events. The report showed 72 of the 122 contracts amounting to $6.8 million contained some form of paid patriotism, though the specific cost of individual paid patriotism activities within those contracts remained unclear. Certain contracts showed that DOD paid for specific activities including on-field color guard performances, enlistment and re-enlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, and ceremonial first pitches and puck drops. The full report can be found here.

“In all the years I’ve spent trying to root out egregious federal spending, the NFL is the first organization to perform due diligence, take responsibility, and return funds to the taxpayers,” said Flake. “The NFL’s response to this investigation sets a new standard and only strengthens its reputation as a supporter of military service members and veterans.”

“I applaud the NFL’s audit in response to our oversight investigation into ‘paid patriotism.’ Returning the $723,000 is the right thing to do,” said McCain. “But the NFL is only one of several sports leagues we identified that accepted money from the Pentagon in return for honoring our troops. The other organizations – Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer – should also conduct an audit and return the money or donate it to service members, veterans and their families. We’ll be working to once again include language in the defense authorization bill that would fully ensure the Defense Department never again spends American tax dollars to honor our troops.”

Goodell’s signed letter to Flake and McCain can be viewed here.

The text of the letter can be viewed below:


May 18, 2016


The Honorable John McCain

218 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510


The Honorable Jeff Flake

413 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510


Dear Senators McCain and Flake:

As I wrote to you last November, the NFL's longstanding relationship with the military, our veterans and their families is one of the deepest and most important to the league. Our respect for the work of America's servicemen and women is reflected in a wide variety of activities. The NFL participates in USO goodwill tours; recognizes military service at all major NFL events; holds year-round military appreciation activities; donates complimentary game tickets-more than 100,000 in just the last few years; works closely with the Army on critical health and safety innovations; and has raised millions of dollars through our Salute to Service campaign, 100 percent of which has gone directly to three non-profit partners-the USO, Pat Tillman Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project. NFL players and our member clubs support active and retired military members in many other ways as well.

Additionally, our relationship with the military includes the advancement of recruitment efforts. The NFL's platform enables the National Guard and various branches of the military to maximize the reach and effectiveness of their recruitment funding. These recruitment efforts are intended to be separate and apart from the NFL' s longstanding support of the service members and families who have dedicated their lives to serving this great country.

As such, in response to indications that some payments intended for recruitment advertising and marketing were used for activities honoring the troops, I directed that an audit be conducted on all contracts between NFL clubs and the military. The auditors used professional standards and a set of consistent, agreed-upon procedures, reviewed in advance by Deloitte & Touche LLP, to evaluate the contracts between the clubs and military entities. This audit involved not only reviewing the contracts mentioned in your reports, but many others as well, totaling 100 agreements in all, covering four NFL seasons, 2012-2015. In assessing whether a payment could be construed as being made for honoring our troops, rather than for recruitment activities, the auditors erred on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion of any payment that might fall into this category

On this basis, the audit identified $723,734 over those four seasons that may have been mistakenly applied to appreciation activities rather than recruitment efforts. This amount will be promptly returned in full to the taxpayers.

In order to ensure that military appreciation activities remain separate from military recruitment efforts in the future, the NFL will include an assessment of marketing contracts in our regular internal audit reviews going forward, with a specific focus on compliance with current Defense Department guidance. Should you wish to discuss this further, the auditors and NFL staff are available at your convenience.






Last modified on Thursday, 19 May 2016 17:51
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