Report: Portland Trail Blazers received $35k in taxpayer dollars for “paid patriotism”

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

The Portland Trail Blazers were one of several professional and collegiate sports teams named for receiving taxpayer funds from the U.S. military in a congressional oversight report titled “Tackling Paid Patriotism,” which was released on Wednesday.

The report commissioned by the two U.S. Senators from Arizona–John McCain and John Flake–detailed $6.8 million of taxpayer dollars went towards funding contracts between the U.S. military and sports teams.

Among those teams, the Blazers rank low in terms of payment and what the money was used for.

According to the report, the Blazers were paid a total of $35,000 by the Oregon National Guard for three color guard ceremonies and access to an executive suite for 11 Blazers home games between the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.

The report found no payments to the Blazers for paid tributes to soldiers as they have found for several other sports teams, one of the report’s major sticking points, particularly with regards to the NFL.

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The Blazers didn’t come close to being the team that received the most money for “paid patriotism,” in the NBA. That title belongs to the Atlanta Hawks who received $230,000 in taxpayer money, followed by the Boston Celtics who received $195,000. Seven NBA teams in total were named in the report.

The Blazers and an NBA spokesman released a statement to KOIN-6 reporter Dan Tilkin, who reported on the story.

That number pales in comparison to the money received by Paul Allen’s other franchises.

The Seattle Seahawks received $435,000 in taxpayer dollars for “enlistment, reenlistment and/or flag retirement ceremonies at Century Link Field or the Virginia Mason Athletic center on four occasions.” Allen’s Seattle Sounders received $128,000 from the Washington Army National Guard for recognition of WARNG soldiers and Army National Guard PSA’s to be played on the jumbotron at 19 Sounders home games.

Unsurprisingly, the war simulation that is the NFL was the most contracted league with 18 teams on the list. 14 of those 18 teams received $125,000 or more in taxpayer dollars.

The report expressed its doubts about the merits of the spending and whether it helps the military in recruiting at all. The report also discovered that the amount of money and contracts between the U.S. military and sports teams is so large that Department of Defense cannot account for them all.

“Over the course of the effort, we discovered the startling fact that DOD cannot accurately account for how many contracts it has awarded or how much has been spent; its official response to our request only accounted for 62 percent of its 122 contracts with the major league teams that we were able to uncover and 70 percent of the more than $10 million it actually spent on these contracts,” the report said. “And, although DOD has indicated the purpose of these contracts is to support recruiting, the Department doesn’t uniformly measure how and whether the activities under contract are actually contributing to recruiting.”

The report took issue with the fact that teams did not include disclaimers that these displays of patriotism–essentially marketing activations–were paid for by taxpayers. The report also opined that the practice of teams honoring service members should be done at their own expense.

“While well intentioned, we wonder just how many of these displays included a disclaimer that these events were in fact sponsored by the DOD at taxpayer expense,” the report said. “Even with that disclosure, it is hard to understand how a team accepting taxpayer funds to sponsor a military appreciation game, or to recognize wounded warriors or returning troops, can be construed as anything other than paid patriotism. Given the immense sacrifices made by our service members, it seems more appropriate that any organization with a genuine interest in honoring them, and deriving public credit as a result, should do so at its own expense and not at that of the American taxpayer.”

(Hat-tip to Aaron Mesh of The Willamette Week)

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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