The Military-Athletic Complex

The Military-Athletic Complex October 6, 2017

Stephen Beale argues that the NFL’s real problem isn’t protests against the flag but the league’s militarization. He asks the question few have asked: Why is the anthem played at football games in the first place?

According to Beale, “The singing of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ was mandated during . . . World War II, when the NFL commissioner at the time mandated it for the league.” Requiring players to be present for the anthem, and to stand, is much more recent: “The players were told to stand for it about the same time that the Department of Defense was ramping up massive recruitment and media operations around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The U.S. military bought this mandated homage to the flag: “They began paying sports teams millions in U.S. tax dollars for what amounted to ‘paid patriotism,’ or mega-military spectacles on the playing field before the games.”

A Congressional investigation looked into this use of DoD funds: “What McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) found was that between 2012 and 2015, the DOD shelled out $53 million to professional sports—including $10 million to the NFL—on ‘marketing and advertising’ for military recruitment. To be sure, some of that was bona fide advertising. But many of those heart-tugging ceremonies honoring heroes and recreating drills and marches and flyovers are what the report denounced as propaganda.”

President Eisenhower would have warned us: Don’t get distracted by the kneeling. Keep your eye on the construction of the military-athletic complex.

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