The Chiefs are among 14 NFL teams who received a share of millions in taxpayer money from the U.S. Department of Defense for military advertising during 2011-14, according to federal contract records.
In 2011, the Chiefs were paid $125,000 for an agreement with the Missouri National Guard, which received advertising on the team’s website, recruiting booths at Arrowhead Stadium and sponsorship for a Dec. 18 game against the Green Bay Packers.
The New York Jets also received money from the National Guard in exchange for advertising, as well as an on-screen tribute to soldiers called “Hometown Heroes,” an arrangement that was criticized by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican. The Department of Defense and New Jersey Guard paid the Jets $377,000 from 2011-14 for the salutes and other advertising, according to NJ.com.
Arizona’s other U.S. Senator, Republican John McCain, released a report on government waste last week that questioned why the National Guard spent $49.1 million for professional sports sponsorships in 2014, including deals with teams such as the Jets that looked like a military tribute but were advertisements.
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The Chiefs, however, said in a statement that their agreement with the Missouri National Guard was about advertising and not tributes to service members. A request for comment from the Guard was not returned.
“The Kansas City Chiefs had a partnership with the Missouri National Guard in 2011,” the team’s statement said. “The agreement was for one year and was strictly for promotional and advertising elements.”
The National Guard paid NFL teams $5.6 million in 2013 and 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times, and this year it is paying $4.1 million for sporting event advertising, including $1.2 million to NFL teams. The Chiefs’ agreement with the Missouri Guard was only for 2011.
The Chiefs’ game-day sponsorships, according to the team, can include digital, web and video-board advertising. These companies can request an on-field component, but the Chiefs say they do not charge their partners for that.
During the Chiefs game vs. Green Bay in 2011, the National Guard presented its high school football coach of the year awards to Blue Valley’s Eric Driskell and Pembroke Hill’s Sam Knopik on the field.
That ceremony and the guard’s sponsorship of the game was unrelated to the Chiefs’ own efforts to recognize the military.
“None of those elements were related to our annual Military Appreciation Day. The Chiefs have and will proudly continue to show our support for all branches of the armed forces through a number of different initiatives,” the team’s statement said.
The Chiefs’ Military Appreciation Day, held during a November home game, features a pregame celebration with more than 100 individuals representing all branches of the military, who hold a field-sized American flag during the National Anthem.
The Chiefs held five military outreach events last year and two this year. One was a visit to the airmen and airwomen at Whiteman Air Force Base last November by general manager John Dorsey and Chiefs legends Bobby Bell, Len Dawson and Will Shields during the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month.
Most recently, the Chiefs’ tight ends visited Douglas MacArthur Middle School in Leavenworth on April 21 as part of the NFL’s “Play 60” campaign and signed autographs for Fort Leavenworth soldiers and their families.
Major League Baseball is contacting its teams about relationships with the military, Pat Courtney, chief communications officer for MLB, told the Los Angeles Times. A search of a government database that contained the Guard’s contracts with pro sports teams revealed no such arrangements with the Royals during 2011-15.
“So far we have not found any club who is receiving payments from the armed forces in exchange for an in-game military salute,” he said.
Star news services contributed to this report