Congress to ban “pay for patriotism” promotions at stadiums

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We have written about conspicuous displays of patriotism at ballparks many times in this space. Last year we dealt with it at length with respect to Kansas City and the World Series, noting how much the tributes to the troops, the flag, veterans and everything else has become tied up in corporate sponsorship. About how, however well-intentioned MLB’s military and veteran-related initiatives are, at some point in the past 15 years they have become rote at best, overblown and exploited by corporate interests at worst and maybe it’s time to dial it back a bit.

Against that backdrop came a story last May at NJ.com about how the military actually uses tax dollars to pay for a lot of this stuff, using it as a recruitment and P.R. tool. Indeed, National Guard officials admitted that. Which, while not illegal or anything, seems manipulative as hell in that fans are clearly led to believe that these salutes to the troops and “Hometown Hero” tributes are public services by the team or, at the very least, spontaneous tributes. Which they’re clearly not. They’re advertisements.

Now, NJ.com reports, Congress is looking to stamp that out:

The National Defense Authorization Act, as agreed to by congressional negotiators, would ban such activities as the “hometown heroes” promotion at New York Jets’ home games featuring members of the New Jersey Army National Guard. Overall, the Defense Department paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million from 2011 to 2014 for such promotions, dubbed as “pay for patriotism.”

The bill also seeks a study of all existing sports sponsorships and advertising deals.

Which presumably includes what the military does in baseball, NASCAR and everywhere else, be it overt or deceptive.

Now, as the postseason looms, let’s see if MLB and its clubs dial it back a bit on their own accord as well.

Police are keeping reporters away from owners at the owners meetings

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The owners meetings are going on in Arlington, Texas right now and something unusual is happening: the owners are using police to shield them from reporters seeking comment.

Chandler Rome, the Astros beat writer for the Houston Chronicle, attempted to talk to Astros owner Jim Crane at the hotel in which the meetings are taking place. Which makes sense because, duh, Rome covers the Astros and, if you haven’t noticed, the Astros are in the news lately.

Here’s how it went:

This was confirmed by other reporters:

To be clear: this is a radically different way things have ever been handled at MLB meetings of any kind. Reporters — who are credentialed specifically for these meetings at this location, they’re not just showing up — approach the GMs or the owners or whoever as they walk in the public parts of the hotel in which they’re held or in the areas designated for press conferences. It’s not contentious. Usually the figures of interest will stop and talk a bit then move on. If they don’t want to talk they just keep walking, often offering apologies or an excuse about being late for something and say they’ll be available later. It’s chill as far as reporters vs. the powerful tend to go.

But apparently not today. Not at the owners meetings. Now police — who are apparently off duty on contract security, but armed and in full official uniform — are shielding The Lords of Baseball from scrutiny.

We live in interesting times.