By Darren Rovell
A few years ago, I attended a military recruitment session with NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, who is sponsored by the U.S. Army. Many had criticized the sponsorship as a waste of money, but Newman and an Army official told me that day that the numbers actually made sense.
I took their word for it.
Fast forward to this week. On Thursday, an amendment attached to the $608 billion defense bill that prohibits every sports sponsorship from the U.S. military, was passed by the House Appropriations Committee.
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One of the co-sponsors, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn), has put out some incredible numbers on military sports sponsorship, the most eye-opening of which is the amount taxpayers paid to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car over the last five years: $136 million. In the past two years alone, the National Guard spent $121 million on sponsorship, $90 million of which went to NASCAR.
Earnhardt himself said Friday that McCollum and her co-sponsor, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), should "do more homework, get more facts."
But the facts don't seem to be in his favor. Major Brian Creech, resources and contracts manager for the National Guard recruiting division, told USA Today that 24,800 individuals were interested in joining the National Guard thanks to the car racing sponsorship. Creech told the paper that 20 people qualified to actually serve, but none did.
There's no "defense" for that.
At least the military can say flyovers over stadiums count as training missions.