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Purdue Athletics participated in "Paid Patriotism"

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

First off, I want to say I have the utmost respect for our military and troops. They have risked their lives to protect our freedom for centuries, and I believe our uniformed men and women deserve our respect. However, I believe this respect should be genuine and not come with a monetary kickback for 5 men in suits.

It had been reported that the NFL, among other professional organizations, had received a large monetary contribution from the Defense Department so that they could honor troops during various NFL games, receive field/sideline passes, etc, by using taxpayer money without the public's knowledge. Unfortunately, Purdue, along with IU and Wisconsin, were also guilty of "paid patriotism", and were the only collegiate programs to participate according to the Congressional Report released earlier this month (pages 83-84).

Learfield Communications, the marketing company that holds the rights to Purdue and Indiana sports, received at least $400,000 in 2014 from the Army National Guard. The report details (all for FY2014):

Taxpayer-funded "paid patriotism" and perks in this contract included:*

  • Twelve Indiana and Purdue football season tickets, IU football season hospitality passes, and 3 season parking passes
  • One season media pass for INARNG to all Indiana and Purdue athletic events to cover and capitalize on Governor's Cup events
  • Fifty single game football tickets to the official Governor's Cup game
  • One VIP experience for four people including on-field access to the official Governor's Cup football game and autographed football
  • Four men's IU and Purdue basketball season tickets, IU basketball season hospitality passes and one parking pass
  • Four VIP single game tickets to Governor's Cup basketball games with one parking pass and the opportunity for on-court recognition and an official basketball
*The item(s) in this list are a subset and may not comprise the full scope of the contract(s) or taxpayer costs

When I was typing this out, I wasn't exactly surprised or offended by some of these, mainly those surrounding the Governor's Cup. Starting in 2013-14 season, the old "Crimson and Gold Cup" between IU and Purdue became the Governor's Cup, and has been sponsored by the Indiana National Guard. So naturally, part of this partnership would probably include tickets for the INARNG for Purdue/IU games, at least that's what I'm assuming.

The issue arises with the football and basketball season tickets, "hospitality passes", and paid on-court recognition. I don't have an issue with our military members receiving season tickets and recognition during a game, but I would hope these are genuine gifts and not coming at the expense of the tax payer. If Purdue and IU offered a $100 discount on season tickets to all military members, that would be great! But if the military is paying Learfield with taxpayer money for Purdue and IU tickets, then there might be an issue.

Thankfully, it seems that events like Purdue's annual football "Military Appreciation Day" were not mentioned in the report. In addition, Indiana Athletics has said that "All service members or veterans groups honored at IU sporting events are honored independent of any sponsorship agreement and without any payment from the Department of Defense." According to the same Indy Star article, Purdue has deferred all comment to Learfield for comment, but Learfield has yet to comment.

Though I have stated that these gifts for the military members should be genuine and not come with a monetary kickback for a few people, I understand that some think that, even though it costs a little bit of taxpayer money, that the military and athletic programs should continue these practices. After all, these can be used as recruiting tools for the military. If that's the case, then please continue. All I ask is that the NFL, Purdue Athletics, and other athletic programs treat it as that, and recognize that these are being funded by the Defense Department like they would with any other corporation.