America’s most odious sports league put another notch in its belt.
Since 2011, the Buffalo Bills—along with 13 other teams—have received lucrative government contracts for military promotions. The Army National Guard and Air Force have built up a tab these past four seasons with the Bills that amounts to $679,000, according to a report published by NJ.com.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise after a week which saw NFL’s top star Tom Brady exposed as a cold-hearted liar, but in today’s NFL honor is for sale.
When the Bills announced a partnership with the Army National Guard in 2011, it was to framed as a positive PR step. The Bills and the ANG developed a “Coach of the Week” program to recognize local high school standouts and donate $2000 to that school’s athletic program for all 11 weeks of the high school schedule. The deal also gave the ANG recruitment presence in the tailgate area before games and airtime on then-flagship station 97 Rock. But that original partnership mushroomed into something much bigger in 2012.
From the report:
BUFFALO BILLS, INC. W912PQ13M0113 $250,000 5/15/2013 Department of Defense Army/ARNG BUFFALO BILLS, INC. W912PQ14M0233 $150,000 9/5/2014 Department of Defense Army/ARNG BUFFALO BILLS, INC. W912PQ12M0147 $250,000 6/7/2012 Department of Defense Army/ARNG BUFFALO BILLS, INC. FA448411P0134 $29,000 9/21-2011 Department of Defense Air Force
The report states that the New York Jets used similar revenue streams to honor individual service men and women during games as “Hometown Heroes.” If the Bills’ “Coach of the Week” program cost only $29,000, the remainder was conceivably spent on other forms of advertising not precluding on-field presentations under the pretense of public gratitude for one’s service to the country.
Since 2011 the Bills have themed-out entire game day presentations as “Salute to Service” days which include extended on-field military pageantry and camo accessories on the players’ uniforms and on other on-field visual elements. The most recent such day was November 9, 2014.
The “Coach of the Week” program honored its last recipient in 2013, but the “Salute to Service” gala continues apace.
Whatever your stand on the military or the politics that machinate it are, in many cases volunteers serve in the prime of their lives and sometimes put their personal safety on the line. The non-for-profit NFL used the sacrifice of these people to glean $5.4 million from the federal government (because, you know, getting all that public money on the local and state level to build lavish and economically disastrous stadiums just gets kind of boring).
Not everyone agrees with or appreciates the militaristic fanfare that has been heightened in sports since 9/11, but to this corner’s eye if you’re going to do it, do it for the right reasons. $5.4 million is a drop in the bucket in terms of NFL marketing dollars, but it’s the principle of the act. The legitimacy of the ritual fades the instant the check is cashed.