Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Why Are People More Worried about #Deflategate than #NFL’s Pay-for-Play Faux Patriotism?

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Folks, a while back, I wrote about the biggest scandal to hit the NFL in quite some time.

No, it wasn’t Deflategate. (For the record, I truly don’t care whether Tom Brady threw deflated footballs or not.)

No, it wasn’t even Spygate, which is a much worse problem in that the New England Patriots admitted to spying on at least one other team in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

Instead, it was a pay-for-play scandal that Keith Olbermann found out about while browsing the Internet. NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers were paid $5.4 million dollars to put “Hometown Hero” spots on jumbotrons; the Department of Defense gave the NFL this money to promote not patriotism — faux patriotism though this is — but for recruitment purposes.

It’s like the Department of Defense was saying, “See, men and women? If you join the military, you can be feted at a NFL game! Yet another reason to sign up!”

The reason this was and is plain, flat wrong is because most people — myself included — believed that these men and women were being singled out truly because they were — and are — heroes. Not because the Department of Defense had paid money to 14 NFL teams to do so.

The only major broadcaster who picked this story up was Keith Olbermann. He was passionate, explaining just what’s wrong with this sort of faux patriotism, and read NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the riot act.

Olbermann was right to do this. What the NFL did in taking this money was absolutely shameful. That the NFL pushed the blame onto the 14 teams that took the money is at best a deflection; it is not an excuse.

At the moment, Olbermann is off the air. (Rumors abound that Olbermann will be reunited with MSNBC, one of his former employers, soon — MSNBC has a huge ratings problem, and Olbermann always drew great ratings. I hope for once that rumor will prove to be fact.) No other major broadcaster has taken up the baton in this area — meaning it is impossible for me, as a fan, to know that the “hometown hero” segments that continue to go on to this day in both the NFL and in major league baseball are legitimate — or if they’re the same type of phony patriotism Olbermann rightly excoriated months ago.

Now, there are two Senators, both from Arizona, who are continuing to look into this, these being Senator Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain. They’ve both been critical of this practice. (McCain is a former POW, as well as being a former Presidential candidate, and his voice carries great weight.) Flake said, according to an ESPN report from May of 2015:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said to ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

What I want to know is this: Why is everyone so worried about whether or not Tom Brady threw deflated footballs, when taking money to “promote” the military in this cynical fashion is a far bigger scandal?

As Olbermann rightly said months ago (see his full comment on YouTube here):

If this time, our time, is one in which the country is pro-military, and if that is reflected at sporting events, so be it.  But for that sense for where the nation is regarding sending our citizens in harm’s way — for or against — for that to be secretly tampered with by the government, by the Defense Department, using your money to purchase public sentiment and pay off the NFL, MLB, NBA, the HIGH SCHOOLS, and all the rest to influence that, that is intolerable! And it is dishonest! It is dishonest in an area where honesty is the only acceptable policy. As dishonest as if the LA clubs never revealed that they are paid nearly $6 million to call it Staples Center and instead insisted that they did so out of admiration for the company.

Folks, I hope the two Arizona Senators continue to be vigilant. Because until Olbermann gets another program, it is very unlikely we’re going to find out the whole story…because no one else seems to care.

And I, for one, see that as incredibly sad.

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