Charlotte Hornets officials said Friday they were shocked to see themselves among a list of 50 sports teams that allegedly received $6.8 million from the Department of Defense so that members of the military could sing the national anthem, host salutes and participate in other forms of what two senators described as “paid patriotism.”
Charlotte’s National Basketball Association franchise received $25,000 from the Air Force, which the team said was for legitimate recruiting events and not fake patriotic tributes.
They included three “parachute drops” and an opportunity for an “on-court ceremony” at a Hornets home game, according to the report by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Charlotte Hornets spokesman Josh Rosen said the team has a long history of recognizing and supporting the military. The team donates 10,000 personal care kits to military personnel a year and honors veterans at all Saturday games. But he said the payments raised in the report were not about tributes but were for actual recruiting events.
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“We are surprised to find our team included in this report,” Rosen said in a statement.
He said the parachute drop involved the team dropping small parachutes with vouchers for Air Force-branded items such as stress balls. The Air Force also had a recruiting table in the arena. The team added that it didn’t charge the Air Force for the on-court ceremony, which was a swearing-in of new recruits.
Christa D’Andrea, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, also said the contract with the Hornets was specifically for recruiting. She said Air Force recruiting squadrons are allocated a budget to purchase advertising in local areas, and Hornets games provide an ideal venue for advertising to audiences at games and watching at home.
“This experiential marketing raises public awareness about America’s Air Force and helps inspire, engage and recruit future airmen,” she said.
The Carolina Panthers were not among the teams listed in the 145-page report, which raised questions about payments to 18 National Football League clubs, 10 Major League Baseball teams, eight NBA teams, NASCAR and others, according to the report by McCain and Flake.
Ely Portillo: email@example.com