MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Military appreciation events are a staple of professional sporting events.

But a United States Senate report claims some of them are not genuine displays of patriotic pride. Instead, they are actually taxpayer-funded commercials.

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The report says the U.S. Department of Defense spent $6.8 million to sports teams between 2012 and 2014 for on-field color guards, anthems and enlistment ceremonies.

This included $570,000 to the Minnesota Wild, $375,000 to the Minnesota Vikings and $27,000 to the Minnesota Lynx.

But some of the teams, like the Vikings, are calling the report misleading. They say the military recruiters bought traditional paid advertising inside their team’s already-scheduled military commemorations — just like buying commercial space on television.

In a written statement, the Vikings said the team “sincerely supported and honored this state’s servicemen and women, veterans and military families for over a decade,” and they will continue to do so.

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The Minnesota Lynx say the team is reviewing the practice, which it says “more than likely will not be renewed” next year.

The Wild said in a statement that “the intent of our marketing partnership with the National Guard is tied to their recruiting efforts.”
The Minnesota National Guard said in a statement it is looking for “cost effective ways to build brand awareness” and gain new recruits.

Meanwhile, the NFL this week said its teams will drop paid military contracts. The Vikings say it will not change what they have been doing voluntarily for years.

How does a fan know if a patriotic display at a game is a paid military commercial? Unless the teams tell us, we will not know.

The Vikings say they will not accept future contracts, so all of those military displays are commercial free.

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And the Minnesota Wild say they will make it clear what is paid for and what is genuine patriotic fervor.