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November 05, 2015

Report: Phillies among teams accepting 'paid patriotism' from Pentagon, costing taxpayers

The Phillies are one of a number of professional sports teams that accepted forms of "paid patriotism," costing taxpayers thousands of dollars, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report from Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake says the Department of Defense has paid $6.8 million to honor American soldiers at U.S. sporting events, including tickets for servicemen and women, in-game recognition, and sponsorship.

McCain said in a release accompanying the report that many of the ceremonies and other perks aren't carried out purely out of a sense of patriotism, but instead to profit wealthy sports franchises.

“Fans should have confidence that their hometown heroes are being honored because of their honorable military service, not as a marketing ploy," he said in the release.

The Phillies accepted two contracts totaling $48,085 in 2012 and 2014, with the money going toward tickets and concession credits for military members.

That's chump change compared to some of the money taken by NFL franchises, the report says, as the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots all took upward of $500,000 in DoD contracts for what the senators call "inappropriate" use of taxpayer funds.

The Atlanta Falcons topped the list, taking $879,000 for ceremonies such as a national anthem performance from a member of the Georgia Army National Guard.

The report included an NFL memo responding to the senators' allegations that marketing and recruitment efforts haven't been separated. More from the Huffington Post:

“We strongly oppose the use of recruitment funds for anything other than their proper purpose,” Goodell wrote, adding that the NFL will audit its teams’ government contracts and refund any money paid out inappropriately.

The Post reports that the findings stemmed from the discovery that the New Jersey National Guard paid $115,000 to the New York Jets to honor soldiers at home games.

An amendment added to the Defense Authorization Act for 2016 by McCain and Flake attempts to outlaw such spending, but the bill was vetoed by Obama for other reasons and would pass in a new version if the president signs it into law.