RSL contract with Utah National Guard included in national report on ‘paid patriotism’

Posted at 9:26 PM, Nov 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-05 23:26:28-05

SANDY, Utah  -- Millions of dollars of taxpayer money is going toward paying sports teams for hosting military appreciation events, a new report claims. But the Utah National Guard says that's not the whole truth.

A show of respect and honor is costing millions of dollars of taxpayer money at stadiums across the country, a new report claims.

Released by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, the lengthy document reportedly uncovers evidence of "paid patriotism."

It outlines how $6.8 million of taxpayer money from the Department of Defense went to a number of professional teams across several sports.

Seventy-three pages into that report, you can find Real Salt Lake.

It outlines how $75,000 in a contract between RSL and the Utah National Guard went toward a military appreciation night with recognition ceremony, as well as color guard ceremonies.

"Those items are included in the contract," acknowledged Lieutenant Colonel Steven Fairbourn. But he added the events, "are really the no-cost additions."

What the $75,000 really went toward, he said, was the advertising.

"The advertising that we buy is that: advertising," he said. "Billboards, and things of that nature."

The report does outline that in a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, marked by an asterisk.

It says "*The item(s) in this list are a subset and may not comprise the full scope of the contract(s) or taxpayer costs."

Lt. Col. Fairbourn also said RSL has hosted military appreciation events and color guard ceremonies for years, before a contract ever came into play.

This year is the first time they've had that $75,000 deal, Lt. Col. Fairbourn said. It ran from March through September of this year.

They are in negotiations for next year's contract. It's just a small portion of the total $785,000 the Utah National Guard spends on marketing.

Lt. Col. Fairbourn said they target events and venues like RSL where they're likely to see the 18-24 year old crowd.

He said the hope is their advertising at the games will turn into recruitment.

But, events like military appreciation night are technically included in the contract, and that's what Senators McCain and Flake said they take issue with. And it's sparking a debate over whether tax dollars really are going toward the large displays of patriotism at sporting events.