Kendrick Morris | Nov. 6, 2015, 10:57 a.m.
This past Wednesday, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released a report which indicated that American professional sports teams had required a combined payment of $6.8 million from the Department of Defense in exchange for the recognition of military veterans during games. As a fan of many of the teams in the leagues named in the report, including the NFL, MLB and NBA, I was absolutely appalled by what the report called “paid patriotism.”
When I go to a professional sports game, one particular event captivates me every single time. I am not talking about the exciting atmosphere of a stadium after a game-winning three-pointer or a long touchdown pass, but rather the sight of 30,000-plus fans rising out of their seats to pay respect to a particular individual who served in the Unites States military. The seemingly simple act of recognition unites opposing fans with an overwhelming sense of patriotism.
I always thought standing up to honor veterans was the least I could do to show my respect and thankfulness for their heroic actions. It also seemed like a really nice gesture and, at worst, a good PR move for professional leagues such as the NFL, MLB and NBA to recognize U.S. military veterans. Then, I discovered the teams were requiring the U.S. government to pay them to allow military veterans, who put their lives on the line for our country, to throw out a first pitch, sing the national anthem, or receive a standing ovation. I felt almost betrayed and sold out, because my genuine feeling of patriotism and appreciation for military veterans had been synthetically manufactured by professional sports teams taking taxpayers’ money.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Department of Defense spending on advertising for the armed forces, such as the “Go U.S. Army” commercials or the vintage Uncle Sam posters. In fact, advertising is a necessity in recruiting individuals to join the military. However, for professional sports teams to require payments from the Department of Defense in exchange for veteran recognition at games is borderline disrespectful. It sends a message that professional sports leagues do not care to recognize the work of U.S. military veterans unless they can make a profit.
In my opinion, the least these leagues can do is honor veterans for free because without brave citizens that put their lives on the line for our country, sporting events would not be possible in the first place. Furthermore, if anyone should be paid in this situation, military veterans should be paid authentic respect and gratitude by professional sports teams. As Veterans Day approaches, I hope that professional sports teams return these payments to the Department of Defense and honor military veterans not because they love money, but because they love their country.