(NEW YORK) — Some of the tear-jerking moments honoring U.S. heroes at sporting events may have been paid for by taxpayers, the NFL admitted Thursday.
ABC News first reported last November on documents it exclusively obtained showing more than 70 contracts with specific mentions of patriotic moments for which major league sports received taxpayer money to stage, totaling more than $6 million in taxpayer money.
In a letter released exclusively by ABC News to the senators investigating the practice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admits, following an independent audit of “contracts between NFL clubs and the military,” that more than $700,000 in payments may not have been used for recruitment activities, but instead for honoring troops.
“On this basis, the audit identified $723,734 over those four seasons that may have been mistakenly applied to appreciation activities rather than recruitment efforts,” Goodell explains in the letter. “This amount will be promptly returned in full to the taxpayers.”
Last year, the leagues and teams denied they charged for patriotic displays, saying these events were free add-ons to big marketing contracts. In addition, the Department of Defense told ABC News last year that military tributes, such as color guards, military bands and troop formations, are a “no-cost addition to the agreements.”
“In some specific cases, recruiters believed that showcasing local troops would be a great way to connect with the American public and their recruiting audience to inspire service,” a statement from the DOD said. “However, in some instances it created the perception that these were traditional community outreach activities as opposed to a paid activity.”
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