The Atlanta Hawks played a video in their arena celebrating a National Guard soldier who “performed a special task, returned from a tour of duty, helped with tornado victims.”
A nice gesture? Arguably.
A paid advertisement? Yes.
A report by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake detailed what they called ‘paid patriotism’ – the United States military paying sports teams for advertisements, many of which looked like altruistic displays of gratitude for servicemen and servicewomen.
At least seven NBA teams received money from the U.S. armed forces:
- Hawks: $230,000
- Celtics: $195,000
- Pacers: $115,000
- Mavericks: $55,000
- Trail Blazers: $35,000
- Spurs: $26,666
- Hornets: $25,000
The list might be longer, but the McCain-Flake report says the Department of Defense can’t account for its full spending.
These are relatively modest sums for NBA teams and the military, especially the military. And NBA teams have seemingly provided more legitimate advertising for the money than other leagues, especially the NFL.
But all sports leagues – including the NBA – brand themselves by aligning with patriotism. If they’re receiving money to show videos honoring soldiers, that betrays the trust of fans – and probably wastes taxpayer dollars.
The good news is this has been a PR nightmare for the military and sports teams since exposed, and it probably won’t serve anyone’s purposes to buy or sell these advertisements anymore.