Indianapolis Colts among teams paid by National Guard to promote military service

Colts: Contract with Guard 'just advertising'

Were the Indianapolis Colts paid for their patriotism? The team acknowledged Monday it’s among 14 others paid by the National Guard for advertising – but says their agreement is different than those of other teams.

Last week, NJ.com reported that the New York Jets were paid $377,000 by the New Jersey National Guard for "salutes and other advertising" – including "Home Town Hero" events in which the team was paid to honor soldiers.

The information first came to light in a press release issued by U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who told NJ.com that the payments appeared "a little unseemly" to him.

"It is troubling to learn that taxpayer funds are being used to compensate these teams for honoring and recognizing U.S. military service members," Flake said in a letter sent Monday to the Department of Defense. "Such promotions conjure up feelings of patriotism and pride for most sports fans, and the revelation that these are in fact paid arrangements is disappointing."

In the letter, Flake asks for documents related to all Department of Defense contracts with NFL teams, including the "number of paid salutes for honoring members of the Armed Services" and the amount spent on those salutes.

While Flake focused on the Jets, they weren't alone in receiving major advertising contracts from the Department of Defense. At least 14 other NFL teams have similar agreements, including the Indianapolis Colts.

Between 2011 and 2014, Department of Defense contract records show the Colts received a total of $620,000 from the military.

Three $200,000 contracts were issued to the Colts in March 2011, June 2012 and October 2014 by the Department of the Army. The team also received a $20,000 contract in September 2012 from the Air Force.

All four contracts list "advertising" in the product line.

A "statement of work" between the Jets and the New Jersey National Guard released by Flake shows that the team agreed to, among other things, recognize 1-2 New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers at each home game as "Home Town Heroes." The contract also specified "enhanced presentation" at the NFL's annual Salute to Service military appreciation game.

A statement of work between the Colts and the National Guard wasn't accessible. Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward said the team "doesn't discuss the specifics of our business agreements," but that the Indiana National Guard "has advertised and been promoted by the Colts."

Ward said the Colts' agreement with the Indiana National Guard is "substantially different" than the one agreed to by the Jets.

"Virtually all of the deliverables to the National Guard in our advertising agreement are just that – advertising; and would be recognized as such," Ward said in an email Monday. "The vast majority of OUR honoring our service people is proudly done by us completely separate and distinct of any advertising agreement."

Ward said the Colts "routinely" go above and beyond the obligations of any agreement to honor service members, saying that the team donates more than 1,000 tickets to the military throughout the season and raised tens of thousands of dollars last year for military organizations through its 50/50 raffle.

Ward said the team had also installed a POW memorial chair at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The New Jersey National Guard defended the contracts to NJ.com, saying they increased the "propensity for service."

A request for comment to the Indiana National Guard was not immediately returned.

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