Ever wonder why there are so many military commercials during American sports games? It’s pretty obvious.
On November 4, 2015, U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) released a new joint oversight report exposing widespread evidence that the Department of Defense (DOD) has been paying professional sports teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS) as part of their “integral” recruiting efforts.
DOD spent $10.4 million on marketing and advertising contracts with professional sports teams (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS) between 2012 and 2015.
DOD cannot accurately account for how many contracts it has awarded or how much has been spent. It only reported 62 percent (76 of 122) of its contracts and 70 percent ($7.3 million) of its spending in its response to our inquiry.
DOD maintains all its spending on sports marketing and advertising with professional sports organizations is integral to its recruiting efforts,
But it gets better. It’s not only sports, the Pentagon has for years directly influenced the production of a wide variety of television and movie programming.
Also in 2015, Tom Seckler filed series of Freedom of Information Act requests with various branches of the military, seeking information about how often and to what extent the Department of Defense coordinates with programming. The results are revealing. Secker’s FOIA produced over 1,400 pages of documents from the Army’s Entertainment Liason Office and another 100 pages from the US Air Force’s office.
The documents reveal coordination not only on the type of programming we’ve come to expect—e.g. military war films— but also well-watched programs from numerous genres.
The sheer scale of the Army and the Air Force’s involvement in TV shows, particularly reality TV shows, is the most remarkable thing about these files. “American Idol,” “The X-Factor,” “Masterchef,” “Cupcake Wars,” numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, “Ice Road Truckers,” “Battlefield Priests,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Hawaii Five-O,” lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, “War Dogs,” “Big Kitchens” — the list is almost endless. Alongside these shows are blockbuster movies like The Avengers, Godzilla, Transformers, Aloha and Superman: Man of Steel
This is only one branch of the US military, the Army. The Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard all have their own Entertainment Liaison Offices. While the Army is perhaps the busiest in terms of involvement in the entertainment industry, we can be confident that the scale of the overall DOD involvement is at least double the size of what these Army documents reveal.
If you want to how deep this rabbit hole goes, you can start by reading the New York Times Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand.
Thanks for reading,
Full report from John McCain and Jeff Flake: Tackling Paid Patriotism – A Joint Oversight Report: https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/12de6dcb-d8d8-4a58-8795-562297f948c1/tackling-paid-patriotism-oversight-report.pdf