Back on June 22 we posted the report of military spending on sports being brought into question by by Congress. Now we are reporting Congress defeated two amendments Wednesday night that threatened The National Guard’s sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other sports sponsorships by the military.
The House voted 216-202 to defeat the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and co-sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. Earlier in the evening, Congress removed a similar amendment in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act by procedural manners.
This is the second year in a row a bill backed by McCollum intended to limit the military’s ability to sponsor professional sports and teams failed. Her amendment was defeated twice in Congress last year. The margin this year was much closer. Last year, similar amendments were defeated 281-148 in Feb. 2011, and 260-167 in July 2011.
Wednesday’s vote ended a spirited debate that lasted more than 30 minutes. Seven representatives spoke on the House floor against the measure with Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-NC, suggesting the measure’s intent was “absurd.” Kingston and McCollum were the only ones who spoke in favor of the amendment.
The National Guard Association of the United States also applauded Congress’ work, stating,
“By striking down an amendment that would have ended professional sports sponsorships as a recruiting tool, lawmakers in the House have sided with the experts who know that affiliations with NASCAR and IndyCar have helped build the strongest and most ready force in history.”
Kingston introduced the amendment, which sought to eliminate $72.3 million marked for professional sports sponsorships by the military. Among the programs targeted were the National Guard’s sponsorship of the Hendrick Motorsports team Earnhardt drives for in the Sprint Cup Series. The Guard will spend $26 million on its NASCAR program this fiscal year. Other programs that would have been eliminated if the amendment survived was the Guard’s sponsorship of J.R. Hildebrand in IndyCar, the U.S. Army’s sponsorship of Tony Schumacher in NHRA and the Marine Corps’ sponsorship of Ultimate Fighting Championship, among others. Kingston called such programs ineffective recruiting tools.
A ban on military spending on sports sponsorships is in a defense spending bill that will come up on the floor of U.S. House in coming weeks.
The military will spend about $80 million on sports sponsorships, meant to spur recruiting, this year. Critics like Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican who co-authored the ban, question whether sports spending is an efficient use of marketing dollars. He’s cited a National Guard official says that the Guard’s $26 million sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. produced 28,715 “qualified leads” but only 20 of those qualified and none actually enlisted.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes Earnhardt’s response to Kingston’s efforts to ban millitary sports sponsorships: “The Republican from Georgia, he hasn’t even been to a NASCAR race.”
The military facing broad future cuts, has already cut sponsorship spending $16 million this year. Besides motorsports, military spending on sports has gone to the NFL, ultimate fighting, bass fishing and even here in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game.