Lost in the shuffle of the NFL’s punishment of the New England Patriots Monday was a report stating the Department of Defense paid a total of $5.4 million to NFL teams through promotional military contracts over the last few years.
According to NJ.com, the Ravens were among a group of 14 teams that received funds to finance advertising and military tributes. Baltimore has reportedly received $884,500 since 2011 — the second-highest amount of any mentioned team — but senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne told multiple outlets Monday that the Ravens’ agreement with the Maryland National Guard makes “no mention of honoring soldiers.”
Past advertising included a Maryland National Guard patch on the Ravens’ practice jerseys, the type of measure that probably should have made it clear that there was a financial aspect to their partnership. Of course, this blurs the line between business and goodwill for many as the Ravens have recognized military personnel in a variety of ways over the years.
In fairness, there is much evidence to suggest the Ravens have gone above and beyond in their efforts to recognize the military as head coach John Harbaugh alone has visited soldiers abroad and received the league’s Salute to Service award in 2013 for his well-documented efforts.
Meanwhile, Arizona senator Jeff Flake has criticized the Armed Forces for the allocation of these funds, questioning the effectiveness of the measures while understanding their desire to recruit soldiers from NFL fan bases. Depending on your views, it could be easy to find fault with either side while questioning the authenticity of the many touching tributes we’ve witnessed at Ravens games and across the league in recent years.
Can a team accept military dollars for advertising and marketing and simultaneously recognize soldiers as sheer acts of goodwill like the Ravens say they do?
Opinions will certainly vary depending on who you talk to.