Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain have released a report called “Tackling Paid Patriotism” which details how the military spent millions of tax dollars to put on halftime shows, honor guards, jet flyovers, and other spectacles at professional and college sporting events.

In 2013, a roaring crowd cheered as the Atlanta Falcons welcomed National Guard members who unfurled an American flag across the Georgia Dome’s turf. Little did those fans—or millions of other Americans—know that the National Guard had actually paid the Atlanta Falcons for this display of patriotism as part of a $315,000 marketing contract.

This unfortunate story is not limited to professional football, but is repeated at other professional and college sporting events around the nation. In fact, these displays of paid patriotism are included within the $6.8 million that the Department of Defense (DOD) has spent on sports marketing contracts since fiscal year 2012.

What a revolting spectacle, no? The presumption among viewers is that this stuff is being done for free as some sort of true patriotic feeling. Instead, it’s yet one more scam that a scandal-plagued military-industrial complex and pro sports league are foisting on folks. God knows the NFL is near broke, so it needs all the pennies it can scrape together, right? Channeling Samuel Johnson, Bob Dylan once sang that “patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings.” Scoundrels—and professional sports teams that are already ripping off the public six ways to Sunday.

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