Fast cars, young — mainly — men and the U.S. military.
For years, America’s armed forces counted on that combination to boost recruitment, spending tens of millions of dollars to sponsor NASCAR teams and defending it as an unparalleled way to get its brand name in front of the kinds of young men who provide the backbone of the country’s fighting forces.
But with trillion-dollar deficits and defense cuts looming, NASCAR and other sports leagues are feverishly fighting this week to try to defend that spending in the face of a conservative-liberal coalition that says it’s time for the government to stop pumping taxpayers’ money into private sports teams — at least without more evidence that it pays off.
A vote in the House this week will go a long way toward deciding the fate of the funding, which amounts to tens of millions of dollars a year.
“We’re just trying to say, ‘Look, if you put your name on somebody’s car, show me the numbers,’” said Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, whose support this year helped breathe life into the defunding effort. “I think as a conservative, we’ve got to measure our friends in the military with the same yardstick we measure a social program.”
The military spent between $80 million and $100 million in each of the past two years on sports sponsorships, including mixed martial arts and fishing. But with auto-racing teams getting the biggest chunks of that money, NASCAR has become the chief public target.