Over the last few years, the government has come under fire for extravagant spending of taxpayer funds on various public programs. One such program that went under the knife last week was military sponsorship of sports.
But, in a turn of good fortune for sports fans, the ban was just shot down in the House and the military is welcome to continue sponsorships.
This is a good thing.
The military sponsors a number of sports like bass fishing and the UFC, but the most prominent is probably motorsports, and especially the National Guard's relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As you know, the military is made up of an entirely volunteer force. Even though motorsports and other sponsorships appear frivolous, they actually serve two important duties.
First, sponsorships and a military presence at a race weekend are key for recruitment. The National Guard secured a real boon by signing Dale Jr. as a spokesman. He is, by far, the most popular driver in NASCAR with one of the most dedicated fanbases of any athlete in the world. The "Jr. Nation" hangs onto his every word.
The National Guard may have spent a lot to get Dale Jr. in their corner — more than $100 million over 5 years — so they aren't about to let him go. And since he's so likable, Jr. brings in new interest to the National Guard each time he gets behind the wheel.
But these sponsorships serve a second purpose beyond recruiting. Racing, particularly NASCAR, IndyCar, and drag racing, has always been a very patriotic and nationalistic sport. There are flyovers, 21 gun salutes, and numerous ceremonies honoring our men and women in uniform.
One way that the military thanks these men and women for their service is to bring them to a race track and give them a weekend to enjoy the sights and sounds. Drivers like Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, and IndyCar's JR Hildebrand do a fantastic job of honoring the military and spending time with the troops to give them behind the scenes access. IndyCar's Panther Racing honors National Guard "Hometown Heroes" at each race and shows their appreciation.
The Army had already decided to leave NASCAR before today's ruling, but it will be staying in drag racing. The National Guard will be sticking around in NASCAR and IndyCar.
The sponsorships need to stay in place to keep recruits coming in — NASCAR fans are reportedly twice as likely to to serve in the military as non fans — and to continue to thank our troops for their service to our nation everyday.
What do you think? Good idea or a waste of money?