US Military Doesn’t Belong on NASCAR Speedway

Jeanne Sager

National Guard CarIt's baaaaaaack. The last time Congress was asked to take on the issue of cutting military sponsorships in NASCAR, racing fans on Capitol Hill said no way; we love our fast cars too much to take the Army-sponsored ones off the track. But Democrat lawmakers aren't giving up without a fight.

Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota has drafted a new way to limit military sponsorships of NASCAR, pro-fishing, and ultimate fighting championships -- by tacking her plan on to a Pentagon appropriations bill, requiring the military seek a Congressional review if they're going to spend more than $250,000 on a sports endorsement deal. Sounds pretty reasonable to little old troops-supporting, tax-paying me.

Don't get me wrong, I've lived in the South. I know folks love their NASCAR. But when guys are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat, and the government is having trouble coughing up the bucks for their care AND for them to feed their families, I think it's safe to say the world of NASCAR can find another sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to help those guys out.

The trouble is, in 2010 alone, sponsorship of Earnhardt's and Jeff Gordon's cars cost the National Guard $20 million. (Note that was just one portion of the military's sports spending -- they spent millions more total.) And gazillions of people ran out to buy stuff emblazoned with National Guard on it to support their team because that's how NASCAR works.

But how many of them then went out and joined up? What's supposed to be a marketing tool is great for the likes of Pepsi-Cola and Snickers, both of which can be grabbed up at the supermarket by a fan eager to eat what their favorite driver consumes. But it takes more than Earnhardt to get someone to give up one weekend a month and two weeks a year for the next eight years, with the possibility of being sent to a war zone.

Military advertising in sports, particularly in the testosterone-loaded world of NASCAR, sounds great on the surface. Where else are you going to find recruits but in a place where men want to drive fast and seek an adrenaline high? The South ranks high for NASCAR fans, and it's popular with recruiters too.

Still, we live in a nation where the U.S. Secretary of Defense is bemoaning the inability of our military to get by on a $1 trillion budget. That's TRILLION. It's a place where funding is being cut for homeless veterans. Where the servicemen and women, the real people out there fighting for our country day and day out, will tell you that they make little pay, that their benefits are low.  Just think how much money could be spent on the servicemen and women instead of fenders and oil filters ... while American race fans continue to enjoy their Snickers and Pepsi stateside. Those advertisements in sports are only worth it if they work! Otherwise, you're just paying a lot of money to see your name go really fast around and around and around a track.

Do you think the military should be advertising in professional sports? Is this the best recruitment strategy or is it too expensive?


Image via The National Guard/Flickr

Read More