BOSTON —You see American military heroes being honored at professional sporting event nationwide, but did you know some of those tear-jerking moments are paid acts of patriotism?
Several of those moments have been seen at Bruins and Celtics games, but it turns out many of them are part of military advertising, focusing on recruitment and retention.
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There's a simple Veteran's Day display outside Norwood's Town Hall, and the town's Veterans' Service Officer said he can't believe the Pentagon pays big money for veterans to be honored at major sporting events.
"It was shocking at first," Ted Mulvehill said. "To me, that's a celebration of service that should be genuine and heartfelt."
The Pentagon has paid for military men and women to sing the national anthem at a Boston Bruins game, carry a giant flag at a Buffalo Bills game, throw out the first pitch at three Milwaukee Brewers games and rappel down center ice in Minnesota.
"These teams do a lot of good work," Sen. Jeff Flake R-Ariz., said. "The problem is, when activities like this are paid for by the taxpayer, it cheapens everything else they do."
Congress is reviewing some 27 contracts between major league sports and the Department of Defense totaling more than $6 million in taxpayer money. They include a $675,000 deal with the New England Patriots.
A spokesman said the team honored veterans long before that deal.
The leagues and teams deny they charged for patriotic displays and called them free add-ons to marketing contracts promoting recruitment and retention.
"I don't think that explanation holds water," Flake said. "We have specific contracts spelling out $20,000 for a salute to the hometown hero."
Major League Baseball told teams to stop the practice. The NFL said if its contracts included money for patriotic moments, it will be refunded.
"The thanks shouldn't be manufactured," Mulvehill said. "It should be from genuine and from the heart."
NewsCenter 5 spoke to a spokesperson for the Massachusetts National Guard who said the deal with the Patriots focuses solely on marketing and advertising and doesn't include any hero moments.
"We have in-game salutes to military personnel that we started on merit without sponsors," the Bruins said in a statement. "Since starting these programs various sponsors have signed on for their advertising purposes. If we do not have a sponsor for these salutes in the future, we plan to continue them on the same merit on which they originated."