Falcons were paid $1 million to honor military 'Hometown Heroes'

The fuel of cynicism is knowledge.

Until today I was under the impression sports teams honored military personnel due to patriotism or some sense of community spirit.

But then I read an article that says taxpayers shelled out $5.4 million to 14 NFL teams to honor mostly National Guard troops

The Falcons were paid more than $1 million, the highest of any NFL team .

The Falcons, in an email at 12:30 p.m., said, "From 2011 – 2014 the Atlanta Falcons were compensated (although at a cumulative figure less than stated in your blog) by the National Guard for executing rights and benefits focused on National Guard marketing, branding and recruiting initiatives."

The Falcons did not provide a correct figure paid by the National Guard.

The Falcons pointed out the annual 'Military Appreciation' game is usually sponsored by a large business partner (recently UPS) and other events, such as an annual fishing trip with military veterans (pictured) are unpaid and part of ongoing community outreach efforts.

The Braves, in an email at noon said the National Guard began a corporate sponsorship with the team in 2014 that includes stadium signage and promotion, including BravesVision and radio interviews and on-field experiences such as throwing out the first pitch. The Braves would not say what the National Guard pays the team.

The Braves listed many other events used to honor the military -- including the 'Hometown Hero' segment at about 20 games per season -- and said those are not paid promotions and the team is not paid by any other branch of the military.

A politician, believe it or not, seems to have uncovered the trail of public cash flowing to the NFL to promote military service.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) recently pointed out the New Jersey National Guard paid the New York Jets about $100,000 for one "federally funded feel-good moment."

In total, the Jets were paid about $377,000, NJ.com reports.

What did the money buy? According to Flake it bought:

  • A videoboard feature -- 'Hometown Hero' -- for every home game, including game tickets for the service members.
  • 10 soldiers were allowed to attend the Jets' 'Annual Kickoff Lunch' in New York City ... to meet and take pictures with various members of the Jets organization for promotional use for recruiting  purposes.
  • National Guard members participated in the Jets' 'Hometown Huddle charity event to refurbish a community asset for promotional use for recruiting and retention purposes.

The Falcons were paid $1,049,500 between 2011 and 2014, according to data on NJ.com . The largest payments were made prior to each season.

Here's what the 14 NFL teams were allegedly paid.

  • Atlanta Falcons - $1,049,500
  • Baltimore Ravens - $799,000
  • Buffalo Bills - $679,000
  • Indianapolis Colts - $620,000
  • Minnesota Vikings - $605,000
  • Green Bay Packers - $600,000
  • New York Jets -- $377,000
  • Kansas City Chiefs - $250,000
  • Cincinnati Bengals - $139,000
  • Dallas Cowboys - $62,000
  • St. Louis Rams - $60,000
  • Pittsburgh Steelers - $36,000
  • Cleveland Browns - $22,000
  • Miami Dolphins - $20,000

When it comes to winning public dollars, the Falcons are tough to beat.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author