The U.S. House of Representatives again defeated a proposed amendment that would have eliminated military spending on sports sponsorships in a narrow vote of 216-202.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., had sponsored the amendment, McCollum continuing her crusade to end spending on sponsorships designed to aid in recruiting. The proposed budget for 2013 for such sponsorships currently stands at $72 million.
The $72 million is the forecasted spending across all of the Armed Forces, with $24.5 million earmarked for the National Guard's programs that include the NASCAR Sprint Cup program of Dale Earnhardt Jr. - which will likely get the lion's share of those funds. Those expenditures from the National Guard are $30 million less than in 2013, when the Guard spent $54.5 million.
Panther Racing, which has been the beneficiary of that spending over the last few seasons in Indy Car, put out a statement expressing their appreciation for those that helped to defeat the amendment.
"All of us at Panther Racing are very happy with the outcome of today’s vote in the House of Representatives on an amendment that would have banned the military from sponsoring professional sports. We are especially thankful that many in Congress were able to recognize the enormous tangible return professional sports provides to the recruitment, retention and overall marketing efforts of our Nation’s military. The magnitude of the platform provided by professional sports partnerships, and the positive message about our Nation’s military that is conveyed through sporting events like the Indianapolis 500 and many others, is astronomical. In Panther Racing’s history nothing has been a larger point of pride than the responsibility of representing the National Guard, its Soldiers and their families. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to spread their message across the country."
The statement may be akin to whistling through the graveyard for Panther Racing however, as even though the ties from the National Guard to Panther Racing are very strong on and off the track, the team's expenditure with Panther is expected to be vastly reduced. Of the $24.5 million that the Guard will spend in 2013, only a percentage of that money goes as direct sponsorship money to the team. Of that figure, money is spent on display space at the track as well as a far-reaching show-car program that sees the Earnhardt NASCAR and the J.R. Hildebrand replica cars on display at venues around the country.
In addition, although the amendment was defeated for the third consecutive time,this was easily the closest vote of the three. Last year, similar amendments were defeated 281-148 in Feb. 2011, and 260-167 in July 2011. Among those that changed their votes toward banning the sponsorships was John Mica, who has represented the Daytona Beach area for two decades.
The Army spending cuts have already affected the NASCAR program of Ryan Newman, but is not expected to reach the NHRA Top Fuel team of Don Schumacher Racing, and specifically the primary sponsorship of Tony Schumacher. Last year, through the NHRA’s Y.E.S. education program, the Army was able to talk to nearly 13,000 students about military careers, more than five times the number of students they were able to reach through NASCAR, and did so for a percentage of the $8.2 million that the Army spent on the NASCAR program.