Since the Sprint Cup series has the upcoming weekend off, I decided to stray off the track this week to address another NASCAR related topic: At least two members of the U.S. Congress want to prevent the various branches of the military from spending money on sports sponsorships.
I say two members because when the proposed bill went to the floor of the House to be discussed, only Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) were the only two that spoke in favor of the bill; a bill that was introduced by Kingston and McCollum. The amendment introduced would prohibit the military from spending public funds on sports sponsorships, of any kind, including NASCAR sponsorships such as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team that is backed by the National Guard.
This amendment ultimately failed to pass in the House by a margain of 216-202 on Wednesday night, so nothing regarding military sponsorships will change.
But, given the moeny losses at stake, NASCAR joined the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and IndyCar Series in speaking out against the proposed bill that is part of a much larger $608 billion Department of Defense appropriations bill. Kingston and McCollum say that the tax payers are not getting enough bang for their buck with sports sponsorships. It is easy to tell when we are in an election year isn’t it?
Since this is supposed to be a NASCAR-related article, let’s examine the record when it comes to sports sponsorships in NASCAR. The military has a long history of sponsorship in NASCAR. The National Guard backs the car of Earnhardt Jr., while the Air Force is an associate sponsor on the No. 43 car at Richard Petty Motorsports. The Army has sponsored a car for the past decade, but recently announced it would not return next season as the primary sponsor on Ryan Newman’s car. The Navy and Marine Corps have sponsored cars in the past as well. They all consider sports sponsorships as key recruiting tools.
NASCAR and the military have a synergy that reaches beyond just recruiting. It was NASCAR engineers that helped improve the suspension of the armored Humvees, and engineers at Joe Gibbs Racing that improved the suspension design of Marine mine rollers that are pushed in front of trucks.
Why is one of every five Fortune 500 companies tied in some way to NASCAR? Simple, NASCAR gives them the exposure they seek. The U.S. Armed Forces use NASCAR for the exact same reason; it gives them exposure. Who better to determine the best way to reach out to recruits, the individual branches of the Armed Forces or (so far) two Congressmen in Washington D.C.? When the National Guard sponsors the most popular driver in NASCAR, do you stop that relationship, or do you build on it?
While I am on my soap box, I have to ask why Washington wants to micromanage everything. With the economy struggling and unemployment at distressing levels, doesn’t Congress have more pressing issues to discuss other than sports sponsorships? Think back a few weeks, what the heck was Congress doing holding hearings on whether Roger Clemens took steroids? Is this what our elected officials were sent to Washington to spend their time doing?
I am all for our elected representatives finding more efficient ways to operate the government; and believe me there are plenty. It just seems to me that sports sponsorships and steroids are topics that pale in comparison to some of our nation’s bigger issues. I say let the experts in the military decide the best way to reach recruits and then Congress will have the time to focus on some other parts of that $608 billion DOD bill. I will just bet that there are some other real savings they might find.