The lobbying push by major sports leagues, including IndyCar and NASCAR, to stop the U.S. Congress from prohibiting sponsorship of pro sports has succeeded, at least for now. Late Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted down an amendment introduced by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) which attempted to prohibit the military from spending public funds on sports sponsorships. The amendment would have cut such sponsorships, estimated at $72.3 million, from the $608 billion defense bill for fiscal year 2013.
A similar measure authored by McCollum had failed twice previously, and the Kingston-McCollum amendment was initially defeated by a voice vote. But McCollum demanded a recorded vote, which occurred Wednesday night, where the measure was defeated by a narrow 216-202 margin.
In supporting his proposal, Kingston quoted published figures stating that the National Guard spent $26.5 million to back Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car at Hendrick Motorsports in 2010, but that the money produced no actual recruits. He suggested that NASCAR audiences aren't an ideal target of military recruitment, because 69 percent of the sport's fan base is over the maximum age for enlistment.
"I'm as pro-military as they get," Kingston said on the House floor. "... and the only thing that's a bigger population [in my district] than my military are my NASCAR fans. And yet [what] they're saying to me is, we're pro-NASCAR, but ... we can spend this money a lot better than we are today."
However, Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) countered that it should be up to the military services to control their own recruiting practices. "I say let the military run the recruiting, as they have done all of these years to maintain an all-volunteer force," he said. In the end, his view carried the day, albeit by a much smaller margin than the similar proposals had been defeated by last year.
Earlier this week, IndyCar and NASCAR had co-signed an open leader to congressional leaders with the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, urging that the measure be defeated.
Last week, the U.S. Army announced it was ending its sponsorship of Ryan Newman's Sprint Cup car, although the Army indicated it planned to extend its backing of Tony Schumacher's NHRA Top Fuel car.