The NFL Actually Charges for Patriotism. Where’s the #PRFail Outrage?

America, the Beautiful...except this ugly thing in PR and advertising.

If you are like most Americans, you celebrated Memorial Day with a few ribs doused in barbecue sauce, chatted with friends and family, and appreciated the fact that you didn’t have to work.

But many times did you say or hear the phrase “Happy Memorial Day“?

It was a few dozen times over the span of three days for me. But think about it: what’s “happy” about a day created to memorialize fallen war heroes and celebrate the sovereignty that we all enjoy as a result of their sacrifices?

Oh yeah! That’s what Memorial Day is about.

A couple of weeks ago, a gripping story from the New Jersey Star-Ledger and should have shaken the entire nation as it considered the “sanctity” of Memorial Day. In it, we learned that our own Department of Defense “has paid at least $6 million in taxpayer money to 16 NFL teams across the country.”

Very few in media mentioned this fact, but we are still talking about Hillary Clinton’s ridiculous emails. Sure, minor political intrigue is always good for clicks–but what about the NFL getting thrown under a bus this past weekend?

In the last year, our biggest sports league has led us to question its authority on rules, ethics on enforcement of those rules, and morals on domestic violence. Now we have a partnership with the federal government to produce what is basically live native advertising before kickoff.

And no one is calling this a #PRFail online. Why?

The U.S. Department of Defense paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million to “honor” our brave men and women during halftime shows to hype the crowd before the coin toss. And yes, the military does advertise–but that’s for recruitment purposes…and those ads are a little less powerful when sandwiched between beer commercials you’ve already seen 9,000 times.

Yet, silence here.

The media and our own colleagues in PR are always ready to call someone out when necessary. So? Anyone? Bueller? The NFL is using tax dollars to remind the public to be patriotic, but no one is complaining.

To get a better sense of the irony behind this, think of a phrase we usually hear on Memorial Day–an aphorism designed to pull at America’s heartstrings and remind everyone how proud we all are of our military.

Freedom isn’t free. 

Yeah, well…apparently not. Hopefully, the NFL can take some of the money it earned by charging the military for an infomercial and use it to pay for some much needed crisis communications support.

You know, someday.