NFL teams reportedly received tax dollars to hold military tributes

A large American flag covers the field before a game between the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants in Tempe, Ariz., in November 2004.

A large American flag covers the field before a game between the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants in Tempe, Ariz., in November 2004.

(Donald Miralle / Getty Images)

It appears some NFL teams have no problem showing their patriotic colors as long as it comes with a stack of taxpayer green.

According to federal documents obtained by, the Department of Defense has paid out millions to NFL teams to finance advertising and game-day military tributes.

From 2011 to 2014, the government paid $5.4 million to 14 NFL teams, who have used some of the money to pay for costs associated with holding patriotic ceremonies and providing perks to military personnel attending the games, the report stated.

The Atlanta Falcons received more than $1 million from the Department of Defense since 2011 and the Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills have each raked in more than $500,000 during the same period, the report stated.

The report comes a week after Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) called out the New Jersey National Guard for its spending agreements with the New York Jets on advertising and game-day salutes. Flake said fans are under the assumption teams are directly paying for the heart-felt tributes. Instead, he argues, it’s simply a form of advertising and marketing.


“Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes,” Flake told “You get a good feeling in your heart. Then to find out they’re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.”

Flake said he supports efforts by the Armed Forces to recruit soldiers at football games, but he disagrees with the way it’s being done.

“When the team is honoring the heroes, that’s the action I think rubs people the wrong way,” he said.

In 2011, the NFL launched its “Salute to Service” campaign, which honors military personnel during games. All proceeds from the campaign are donated to the NFL’s three military-affiliated nonprofit partners, according to the league’s website.

Jets spokesman Bruce Speight confirmed to the team has received government money in recent years. He said the Jets worked with the New Jersey National Guard “to meet their specific objectives which in this case was recruitment and retention by targeting our fans and audience through media and stadium assets controlled by the team.”

The Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams have also accepted money, according to the report.