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Salute That Military Honoree; You’ve Paid For It

By Liz Brown

The Pittsburgh Steelers would like us all to know the "real" story of their relationship with the U.S. Military. You see, a story announced the Steelers are one of 14 teams paid by the Department of Defense to honor the Armed Forces. Pittsburgh accepted a paltry sum — just $36,000 of the reported $5.4 million paid out between 2011 and 2014 — but the team felt a need to explain.

"The U.S. Military went to an all-volunteer army in 1973. Since that time, the U.S. Armed Services have spent millions of dollars to attract a sufficient number of recruits to sign up annually in order to meet the needs of maintaining a strong military. Like many other advertisers desiring to get their message to large audiences, the military has advertised with the Steelers, as well as other sports leagues and teams as part of its recruiting programs."

Well then. Thank goodness for those selfless NFL teams making room in their overflowing wallets for taxpayer money, or people like my husband wouldn't have joined the SEAL Teams.

No, that's not right.

Thank goodness for those selfless NFL teams burdening themselves with taxpayer money, because if they didn't receive DOD financial aid they never could have afforded to honor our servicemen and women otherwise?

Nope. That's not right either.

Only 14 of 32 teams accepted these "advertising" dollars. More than 14 teams made public efforts to support the military. Pittsburgh sulkily noted it provides other programs and opportunities, independent of the military's urging, for fans to salute veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

"Our Veterans Day programs, as well as our players' visits to military hospitals and wounded veterans, are well received by the military and are appreciated by our fans."

That's just great, Steelers, but that's not the issue at hand.

Taxpayers, patriots, and sports fans have just found out we were lied to about many of those efforts to honor our hometown heroes. We aren't completely stupid; no one thought the teams acted altruistically. The NFL is a proud business, one that loves to trumpet how philanthropic it is. But with that knowledge, we were in on the deal. We could even ignore the teams' self-aggrandizement because they have gobs of money and can, and should, afford to put on a show that gives something to the community. 

Now we've learned there was a show behind the show.

We were not really applauding an NFL production, we were giving roaring ovations to advertisements paid for by the military, paid for by… ourselves. The insincerity is galling. Yes, there are countless companies who pay the NFL to plaster their advertisements on video monitors, cups, and seats. There's a certain amount of transparency to placing a gigantic Bud Light bottle on a scoreboard, though.

That's the real story.