It has become an emotional staple of athletics in the post-9/11 world: patriotism at the stadium.
Some of those tear-jerking moments honoring U.S. heroes, however, are "paid acts of patriotism” and the practice is more widespread, ABC News has learned. The Pentagon buys on-field opportunities for military men and women to carry as part of marketing and advertising packages with more than 50 professional sports teams.
Moments such as unfurling the giant flag at a NFL Buffalo Bills game or even throwing out the first pitch at three MLB Milwaukee Brewers games, and rappelling down a rope at center ice to drop the puck at a Minnesota Wild game. All paid for.
“These teams do a lot of good work,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told ABC News. “The problem is when activities like this are paid for by the tax payer, it cheapens everything else they do and that's why it ought to go away.”
The acts, which Flake describes as “paid patriotism” in the NFL, were first revealed this past spring, Congress demanded to see all the contracts between professional sports teams and the Department of Defense.
Those documents, obtained exclusively by ABC News, reveal 72 contracts that include specific mentions of patriotic moments when major league sports received taxpayer money to stage, totaling more than $6 million in taxpayer money.