RED CARD! Taxpayers Are Sponsoring DC United Soccer Team

Michi Iljazi

March 28, 2014

Washington D.C. has a penchant for giving taxpayers the shaft when it comes to funding things they aren’t asking for nor seem to have a need to pay for in the first place. One can just go down the list of federally funded programs in many of the government agencies and find millions; even billions of dollars going to pay for things that taxpayers probably would otherwise decline any rationale for federal funding. Enter DC United, the Major League Soccer team that calls the nation’s capital home. A few weeks ago the team finalized a deal with a new sponsor, Leidos, a federal contractor. Steven Goff of The Washington Post reported that:

D.C. United is finalizing a deal with Leidos Inc., a titan in government contracting, to replace Volkswagen as the MLS club’s primary sponsor, the Insider has learned. The Reston-based firm, which operated as Science Applications International Corp. before splitting into two companies last year, would display its logo on team uniforms and other platforms. United officials have been aiming to secure a sponsor before the season opener March 8 against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium. At a fan event Saturday, the club unveiled newly designed uniforms without a sponsor’s logo on the front of the shirt. Most MLS teams sport corporate sponsors on their uniforms — a standard revenue device throughout the soccer world.

Just days after the Washington Post story, the deal was finalized.

The multi-million sponsorship deal for Leidos should raise eyebrows for taxpayers who shouldn’t be subsidizing advertising for a company that gets their money through federal contracts paid for by working families. There’s something wrong, yet oh so fitting to see a team based in Washington D.C. getting a taxpayer-funded sponsorship. Unfortunately, this is just another bad example of how taxpayers are sometimes taken advantage of in the sports arena. TPA has previously reported on the ineffective and yet quite costly Military sponsorship of certain NASCAR drivers.

One of the largest sports marketing contracts ever awarded by the federal government went to Rick Hendrick, owner of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s National Guard car; which received $130 million in sponsorship by the US government. While the National Guard claimed it was  “a very effective recruiting tool,” the numbers showed something very different. In 2011, the National Guard’s NASCAR sponsorship was credited with attracting only 20 qualified candidates, none of whom actually ended up joining the military, according to USA Today.

The National Guard wasn’t the only one with a failed sponsorship of NASCAR teams. Driver Ryan Newman’s Army sponsorship was also called into question. In 2011, the U.S. Army spent just over $7 million on a 12-race agreement to sponsor Newman’s car. Newman cites raising awareness and education as major benefits of the sponsorship but only vaguely mentions it as “helping recruitment-wise.”

Taxpayers shouldn’t pay for sports sponsorships in any way, shape, or form. This sponsorship is much more than just a kick in the grass.