The Seahawks and Sounders were among the 50 sports franchises listed in the government oversight report released Wednesday detailing payments by the Department of Justice to host patriotic displays honoring American soldiers.
The report, authored by Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, connected franchises in the NFL, MLS, MLB, NBA and NHL with accepting taxpayer money in order to host the displays.
The Seahawks ranked seventh in the NFL in reported taxpayer cost as contracted through the Washington Army National Guard.
Per the report, the team was paid $453,500 over three seasons for holding reenlistment, enlistment and/or flag retirement ceremonies at CenturyLink Field or the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. The deal also included three player appearances for up to 40 recruits/students, pregame reenlistments at one game and “a WAARNG-sponsored high school coach recognition program that awarded each of 21 honorees a Seahawks jacket, an autographed football, a framed certificate, a $225 sports authority gift card and a $500 donation to the school’s football program.”
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The Sounders were the mostly highly compensated of the eight MLS clubs named in the report, netting a total of $128,000 for recognition and the display of “compelling” Army National Guard service messages at home games in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
“What we take issue with,” the introduction to the report read, “is the average fan thinking teams are doing this on behalf of the military.
“While we fully support the intent of the coaches and players programs and understand the need to cultivate long-term relationships with individuals who can influence the decisions of prospective recruits, we find the tactics used by the military services questionable and the benefit to taxpayers undefined.”
The Sounders had no comment on the report, but the Seahawks released a statement that read, in part:
“The Seahawks have had a marketing partnership with the Washington Army National Guard (WAANG) dating back to 2012. These agreements include media and marketing elements to increase awareness and aid in recruiting efforts. The reenlistments, enlistments, flag retirements, player appearances and the High School Coach of the Week programs were provided at no cost but outlined in the agreement at the request of WAANG.
“Our Community Outreach department has a long history of supporting our troops and veterans. The Seahawks annually host military men and women at games and practices, make visits to local bases, organize appreciation ceremonies and plan a number of other events that support and honor our troops and veterans. These efforts are all done at no cost to the military. Spending on recruiting efforts should not be confused with programs that support our nation’s military veterans.”