Freedom’s just another word for sponsorship

What do you get when you mix patriotism with the free market? A whole lot of outrage.

Those heart-tugging moments when a soldier in fatigues stands on the Fenway dugout between innings and waves, or in Foxborough before a Patriots game when a Marine in full uniform is shown on the giant screen in Gillette Stadium for fan adulation prior to kickoff are reminders of what is needed for a free country. But, apparently, those reminders themselves aren’t free.

A congressional report compiled by Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake found the Department of Defense has paid at least 50 pro sports teams around the country some $6.8 million over the past four years for patriotic promotions designed to bolster recruiting. While the overall cost is barely a water molecule in the DoD’s $520 billion budget, it’s the visceral reaction that patriotism can be bought and paid for like an ad for shaving cream that has everyone up in arms.

Unlike on the field of play, Atlanta led the salute-for-pay field with the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball teams topping their respective leagues in taxpayer money. But we here in Boston were no pikers, with the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins in second place in their respective leagues, bringing in a combined total of more than $1 million in red, white, and blue green. In fact, the Patriots were second overall among all teams with $700,000 in marketing contracts between fiscal 2012 and last year.

While much of the payments went for tickets for military members who were honored before or during games, there were a few out-of-the-box promotions that caught McCain and Flake’s eyes. The Minnesota Wild, who received $570,000 in taxpayer funds for promotions, gave the Minnesota Army National Guard the opportunity to have a soldier rappel from the arena catwalk down to center ice to deliver the game puck. The Buffalo Bills had flyovers for home games in 2012. A Georgia National Guardsman got a surprise meet and greet from an Atlanta Falcons player when he returned from deployment. And dozens of teams had enlistment signing ceremonies before games and at halftime.

The defense department, while saying they would no longer pay out money for patriotic marketing promotions, nonetheless defended the actions as a key recruiting tool.

“We have hundreds of [sponsorship agreements] with teams, including minor league baseball and at high schools,” National Guard spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt told ESPN. “We have found that spending in sports to help us recruit in our 18-24 demographic works out for us.”

What’s interesting in the report, which is the result of the initial revelations of pay for patriotism last May, is the focus on pro football, which has prompted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to promise to return money that was inappropriately paid for patriotic salutes. The cover of the report is a World War II-era poster of an old-time player in a leather helmet with the name “McCain Flake” on the back of the jersey tackling Uncle Sam wearing a $-sign shirt as he’s about to throw a pass. The title of the report is “Tackling Paid Patriotism.”

Very catchy and, with football the most popular sport, designed to grab attention. It’s called marketing.

But the biggest single recipient of defense largesse was NASCAR, which got $1.6 million for waving the flag. But, according to most fan demographics, NASCAR aficionados are largely Southern, largely Republican, and very much patriotic, so you don’t want to rub their faces in it when you can tackle billionaire owners. But Flake and McCain said it’s the perception that these events are gestures of altruism by grateful teams that is what’s galling.

“It is time to allow major sports teams’ legitimate tributes to our soldiers to shine with national pride rather than being cast under the pallor of marketing gimmicks paid for by American taxpayers,” the two senators say in the report without a hint of irony.

JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

The Baker administration plans to pump $4.7 million into the Hamilton Canal District project in Lowell and erect a $200 million court complex on the southern edge of the site. (The Sun)

State Senate President Stan Rosenberg, in a sudden about face, says he wants to find a way to fund $10.9 million in faculty and staff raises at UMass Amherst after all. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker launches a campaign to remove the stigma of addiction. (WBUR)

A report from the Pioneer Institute says the Department of Children and Families puts too much emphasis on keeping families intact — at the expense of the safety of children. (Boston Globe)

Jay Ash, the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and Marty Jones, the head of MassDevelopment, say the state’s transformative development initiative offers great promise for Gateway Cities. (Eagle-Tribune)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial calls on the Legislature to get busy and pass a measure reforming the Public Records Law. On Beacon Hill, however, opposition to the bill is growing. (Gloucester Times)

Five caucuses have joined together to work on criminal justice reforms. (Bay State Banner)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Herald editorial slams Mayor Marty Walsh‘s handling of Boston Grand Prix, saying it appears his administration hasn’t “learned a damn thing from the whole ‘Boston 2024’ debacle.”

A consultant hired by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce says the city needs to hire an ombudsman to mediate access to speedy fiber optic connections. (Telegram & Gazette)

Boston brings several agencies together to help find housing for homeless vets. (WBUR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes legislation to give 70 million Americans a one-time boost in Social Security benefits and pay for it by closing a corporate compensation loophole. (Associated Press)

Former president George H.W. Bush criticizes his son’s military advisors, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, in a new book. (Fox News) He says Cheney changed considerably from when he served in the elder Bush’s cabinet, calling the former vice president “iron-ass.” (New York Times)

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem pitches her new book and talks about a woman president and the never-ending battle over Roe vs. Wade. (Greater Boston)  Meanwhile, women rule in Oregon. (Governing)

It appears more likely that a bomb brought down the Russian airliner en route from the Sinai Peninsula. (U.S. News & World Report)

ELECTIONS

State Sen. Daniel Wolf confirms that he won’t seek reelection next year to his Cape Cod-based seat. (Cape Cod Times)

Joyce Ferriabough Bolling cheers the election of women in Tuesday’s races, including the two, Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George, who defeated sitting Boston city councilors. (Boston Herald) CommonWealth‘s Michael Jonas says time finally caught up with Steve Murphy, who was more of a throwback to a the generation of Boston pols who preceded him. Peter Kadzis sounds a similar note, seeing echoes in the ouster of Murphy and Charles Yancey of Edwin O’Connor’s The Last Hurrah, “the story of how time eventually overtakes all men.” (WGBH News)

About 75 confused voters in East Bridgewater were turned away from the polls because they mistakenly thought they were voting in the special Senate election after receiving robocalls from state Rep. Geoff Diehl urging them to vote even though they didn’t live in the district. (The Enterprise)

Though Donald Trump‘s anti-immigrant rallying cry is resonating with plenty of people in Iowa, cities there like Waterloo are staging an economic comeback thanks to the presence of a growing immigrant workforce. (Boston Globe)

Patrick O’Connor, a Weymouth Town Council member and an aide to mayor-elect Robert Hedlund, is the first to announce his candidacy for his boss’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat in the yet-to-be scheduled special election. (Patriot Ledger)

Holyoke‘s Mayor Alex Morse had a close contest, but has now won reelection twice, which puts him in a stronger position for the long run in office he has said he wants. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Beth Bresnahan, the CEO of the Item in Lynn, hates Ikea.

Good-bye, City Sports. (Boston Business Journal)

The high cost of office rentals in Cambridge is sending some newer firms elsewhere. (Boston Business Journal)

There’s a new surge of interest in the virtual currency Bitcoin, as investments by China and Wall Street have driven the value up 100 percent over the last month. (New York Times)

Nonprofit advocates think new House Speaker Paul Ryan will be a friend to charities. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

EDUCATION

Regis College of Weston begins offering courses at Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence in nursing, public health, and health sciences. (Eagle-Tribune)

Thanks to a write-in campaign, the largely powerless Lawrence School Committee (a state receiver runs the school system) gets the fourth member it needs to meet as a body. (Eagle-Tribune)

Mashpee School Superintendent Brian Hyde faces charges in a strange cases involving an unannounced residency check on a high school student. (Cape Cod Times)

The Boston Public Schools hires a social-emotional learning expert. (Bay State Banner)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A group of startups, including two Boston companies, say video games can provide valuable therapeutic benefit for conditions ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s; doctors are not yet convinced. (STAT)

Enough to makes you sick: Premiums for some plans sold through the state’s Health Connector will rise more than 15 percent next year.

A drama involving a married couple who are both former Boston doctors, the Harvard teaching hospital where one is getting treatment for advanced cancer, and worries about the possible threat posed by her husband to hospital personnel ends up in court. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Peter O’Connor offers a suggestion on how to improve the “Amtrak Experience,” particularly out of Penn Station in New York City. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA shows off $8.6 million in new snow removal equipment as it tries to ensure no repeat of last winter’s transit meltdown. (Boston Herald)

Dante Ramos says some neighborhood activists are wildly overreacting to the city’s move to reserve some parking spaces for Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare. (Boston Globe) Garrett Quinn makes a similar point with a piece not-subtly headlined, “South Boston’s bonkers obsession with parking.” (Boston Magazine)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Philip Chism is found competent to stand trial in the brutal murder of his teacher Colleen Ritzer two years ago. (Salem News)

Some federal inmates released following revisions to federal sentencing guidelines for drug offenses head for a job fair at the Moakley Federal Courthouse to try to get back on their feet after many years behind bars. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Forty-six staffers lose their jobs at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com. (Billy Penn)

Boston Globe owner John Henry explains why he started STAT.