The NFL made more than $700,000 from 2012 through 2015 for seemingly organic military tributes. The league has now committed to paying the money back.
Via Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, the league determined based on an audited review of marketing agreements that teams received $723,734 for military tributes during the three-year window. Commissioner Roger Goodell made the disclosure in a letter to Senator Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain on Wednesday.
Goodell said that the money would be returned to the federal government, and that the league will be more vigilant in the future regarding the spotting and prevention of these activities in the future.
The league apparently has returned only payments for on-field flag ceremonies and tributes to welcome home veterans. The initial report showed that, dating back to 2011, NFL teams received more than $6 million from the military.
The move came after the league absorbed heavy criticism for acts of patriotism for which the teams got paid. While it’s hardly a surprise that the NFL reversed course once the practice came to light, the league got brownie points for giving back the green.
“In all the years I’ve spent rooting out egregious federal spending, the NFL is the first organization to perform due diligence, take responsibility and return misspent funds to the taxpayers,” Senator Flake said, via Rovell. “The NFL’s response to this investigation sets a new standard and only strengthens its reputation as a supporter our nation’s military service members and veterans.
Still, the fact that the league took the money in the first place — and likely would have kept it but for the exposure of the practice — doesn’t mesh with the picture of unequivocal support for the military. True supporters wouldn’t have stuck the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard with a bill for the type of pandering that ordinarily comes without strings attached, and that also results in the sale of plenty of military-themed NFL merchandise every November.