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Packers Reportedly Took Taxpayer Money To Salute Military

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Packers Reportedly Took Taxpayer Money To Salute Military

I've always had an uneasy feeling when it comes to the "Salute the Troops"-type moments at professional sporting events. Not that the troops being honored don't deserve public recognition. Far from it. But I tend to think they deserve something more than to be extras in a public relations campaign for the Department of Defense. 

According to Christopher Baxter of, it appears that's exactly what's been happening in some instances.

Baxter reports that the Department of Defense has paid 14 NFL teams a total of $5.4 million from 2011 to 2014. 

Sadly, the Packers are one of those teams

You can see from the list, in three out of the four years in question, the Packers have received a total of $600,000 for dates that coincide with the preseason. 

Interestingly enough, I've been told by a source with the Vikings that while Minnesota did indeed receive the money listed in the article, it was only ever used for things like gate signage and video board messages. The Vikings never paid for in-game recognition of any members of the military.

My source with the Vikings made it clear that they've recognized servicemen and women for 10 years "unpaid, as it should be." 

However, not all teams seem to have the same track record in that regard. 

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona recently pointed out some military appearances that were directly tied to the New York Jets. Reading the list of what the Jets paid for, you can't help but recognize that our servicemen and women were reduced to little more than public relations props. 

As Flake told Baxter

Those of us who go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes. 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. They realize the public believes they're doing it as a public service or a sense of patriotism. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

If the Department of Defense thinks reaching potential recruits is easier by marketing itself at sporting events, I have little issue with that. That money is probably better spent in that area than on television ads. 

Where I do have a problem is when that money is directly tied into in-game appearances by our military personnel. It makes my skin crawl that these heroes are being reduced to propaganda for both the Department of Defense and the NFL. 

I contacted the Packers early this morning to see how the money in question was spent during the three years listed in the article. As of yet I have received no response. I'll let you know if I do. 

UPDATE: I recieved an email back overnight from Aaron Popkey, the Packers' Director of Public Affairs. His response: 

The Packers’ partnership with the Wisconsin National Guard is similar to our other partnerships in that it includes traditional marketing aspects designed to address its objectives, which are recruiting, retention and awareness. It featured advertising on TundraVision, stadium signage and, as well as sponsorship of other programs and events such as the high school coach of the week, a job fair for veterans and a continuing medical education program. Our partnership arrangement does not simply focus on one specific event, but is comprised of many different features.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"military appearances that were directly paid for by the New York Jets."

I'm confused. Isn't the issue the Jets accepted money from DOD to preform these services, not that the Jets paid for them?

I can't see the Jets shelling out some cash to honor vets being an issue.

PackerAaron's picture

Yup, I butchered it. Corrected now. Thanks.

FITZCORE1252's picture


MangoSalsa's picture

Do the military personnel involved get paid?
What did the Packers do with the money they received?

I will hold off any judgement on this issue until I know the answers to both of these questions.

PackerAaron's picture

They are treated to a free NFL football game. No other compensation as near as I can figure out.

And I'm with you on wondering what the Packers did with the money...

GBFaninCA's picture

What more do you need to know? We accepted tax dollars, designated to be used for our defense budget. Unless we donated all that money to our veterans, we are in the wrong. We shouldn't have to be paid to show support for our military. This is the first time I can say I'm embarrassed by my team.

MangoSalsa's picture

The military has used it's (our) $ to pay for advertising forever.
How is this a surprise to anyone?
It's just like a live commercial.
Who cares?

Spud Rapids's picture

"We accepted tax dollar, designated to be used for our defense budget. Unless we donated all that money to our veterans, we are in the wrong."

You're going to complain about the Packers accepting $600K when the military has spent over a trillion dollars on the wasteful, unnecessary F-35 program? At least the Packers are honoring veterans at their games and helping celebrate our heroes. I for one have faith that the Packers put that money to good use to properly honor our veterans. I am not going to let one little article about how our department of defense uses the NFL as an avenue of recruitment/marketing sully my feeling about one of the classiest organizations in the league.

MLGB97's picture

" It makes my skin crawl that these heroes are being reduced to propaganda for both the Department of Defense and the NFL. "

You realize this isnt the first nor the last time a war hero will be used for propoganda. While I too am curious as to what the money was used for and why the DOD was paying the NFL is low. I am not naive to think that the DOD isnt going to use anything in its power to sway peoples minds, its just a fact of life.

MangoSalsa's picture

"You realize this isnt the first nor the last time a war hero will be used for propoganda. "

Ever read Flags of Our Fathers?

MLGB97's picture

no actually i havent is it good?

MangoSalsa's picture


PackerAaron's picture

Concur. Very good book. The film was a disappointment however.

GBFaninCA's picture

Just because the DOD sucks balls doesn't make it OK for the Packers to accept tax dollars meant for our military. This is a shame and an embarrassment for Packers fans every where.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Total DOD budget 2011-2014 / amount paid to NFL.

$1.6Trillion / 5.4Million = 0.00000018576389%

Not sure I feel any better about that :)

dullgeek's picture

I think you've got your numerator and denominator backwards in your equation. And for what it's worth when I do that calculation, I get:


Also, when I lookup the total defense budget (*), I get a larger number than $1.6T from 2011-2104. I get $2.6T making the resulting percentage:


Either way it's a very tiny amount of the total defense budget.

I'm pretty ambivilant about the whole thing. Is the problem that the Packers accepted the money or is the problem that the US Government paid it? I tend to be more frustrated with the latter than the former. But given the much bigger problems I have with the DOD budget this seems like trying to clean a tiny smudge on a wall of a building that's burning down.


EdsLaces's picture

If this is true's disgusting.

chugwater's picture

Now every time we see a color guard or servicemen and -women at the games, we'll be left wondering. Can't have nothing nice.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

This does not bother me one whit.

BradHTX's picture

I'm with you, TGR -- I think this is a whole lotta nothing. Does the fact that NFL teams accepted DoD money change the honor that was shown to the servicemembers by the fans. No, I don't think so.

A small part of the DoD budget, the merits of which can be debated but is nonetheless the case, goes to PR and advertising. I don't see paying a minuscule amount of money to the NFL for PR events to be any different than paying NBC to run commercials. Is anyone ashamed of the media for accepting gubmint money to run ads for the military rather than doing it for free?

You can be a warhawk or a pacifist, an isolationist or a Neo-Con, doesn't matter. Nothing to see here, move along.

EdsLaces's picture

Are you kidding? It absolutely shows that we don't honor them. Maybe next time we can start charging to have the players wear pink.

dullgeek's picture

I was agnostic on this topic, but you've convinced me.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Again, there is nothing to see here. DOD advertises to recruit young people and lots of young people watch football games. Some of them are even in decent physical shape. I do not think that the DOD should be able to commandeer television time or otherwise get it for free. It should pay.

The Green Bay Packers accept a fee for such services, the same as any business. But the Packers also are a charity. In 2014, the packers gave $6 million dollars to local charities. I suppose the packers could have refused the DOD's money and reduced it local charitable activity. As to the packers, I just don't see a problem here.

I gather that the New York Jets received some $600K over the years. In 2014, BEFORE this dust up, the Jets also donated $1 million to help build homes customized for injured veterans. The Jets also offer discounted tickets to military personnel. I wonder if anyone who is outraged by this issue owns a business and discounts its prices for military personnel.

I'm not going to conduct a survey of the other NFL teams that accepted money from the DOD. Maybe some greedy owner in another city pocketed the money and used it to beat down the downtrodden somewhere. Each team's fan base can look at their own team.

EdsLaces's picture

Football might be something we all love but at the end of the day it is a game. Service men and women risk their lives so we can enjoy our every day freedoms. You think that the military should play to have these people that risked their lives for us to be saluted at one of our Packer games?Certain military branches are not funded well enough at all, but they better give the multi billion dollar NFL some money!! The more you keep repeating yourself the more ridiculous you sound.

EdsLaces's picture


Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I do find unseemly the thought that these members of the armed forces might have been ordered to go to these football games to be used as propaganda. I don't know for a fact that they are ordered to do so; nor do I know how these service members feel about this practice: for all I know they volunteer or it may be viewed as a sought after perquisite. But I do get that the individual soldier might feel like a dancing bear.

I will also grant that it would have been better if the teams had disclosed the payments, and whether they actually derived any net profit, an issue that has not been made clear. I always assumed that these teams did this because they perceived a benefit in goodwill to their organization. It never occurred to me that it was purely altruistic. I find the pink ribbons worn by the players to be disingenuous as well since I strongly suspect it is part of the NFL's marketing strategy to attract women viewers. I suppose the NFL teams could have police, fire fighters and other first responders, folks who put their lives at risk, saluted as well and thanked for their service. Maybe in your opinion there are other organizations that the NFL should support. I wonder how many there are? Maybe the DOD should simply be able to commandeer free advertising from private entities or from TV networks.

I find politicians speaking at West Point (a practice that goes back decades) so the politician can have a photo op even though many (maybe a majority) of the soldiers detest the dear commander-in-chief to be unseemly as well, as these soldiers are arguably being used as propaganda. I find politicians meeting the caskets of our dead diplomats while hiding the fact that they or their department denied requests for additional security funding to be unseemly.

I don't think I am ridiculous: I am a business owner who believes in the free market and capitalism. I am probably more jaded when it comes to money than you are, though.

Spud Rapids's picture

Can we choose not to have selective vision? Look at what the NFL has done with organizations like the Pat Tillman foundation. Accepting that money is just an extension of their work to help and honor the armed forces. 17,282,225 was the NFL attendance to games last year and I've never been to one that didn't have some sort of veteran salute. If I could invest $5 million and potentially reach over 17 million people I would say money well spent.

MarkinMadison's picture

If you read the Packer statement it is unclear whether the fees included the salute to individual veterans or was related to other forms of advertising. At the end of the day, as a veteran, this does not shock, surprise or piss me off. What does bother me is the chronic failure of both parties to properly fund the VA system, which has a real direct and substantial impact on the lives of my brothers and sisters who have sacrificed their physical and emotional well-being.

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