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Jets On Defense After Report Exposes Sponsored Military Salutes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The New York Jets are brushing off criticism for taking taxpayer dollars to honor members of the military.

According to NJ.com, federal records show the Jets were paid $377,000 by the U.S. Department of Defense and New Jersey Army National Guard from 2011-14 to salute local servicemen and women during games at MetLife Stadium. As part of the agreement, soldiers also attended various team functions, including charity events and an annual preseason luncheon.

While some believe the Jets have been disingenuous in their commitment to the troops, the franchise is pointing toward its charitable record.

"The New York Jets have consistently supported all five branches of the U.S. armed forces – independent of and unrelated to any sponsorship relationship — by participating in many programs which honor their service and sacrifice to our country," the team said in a statement to the New York Daily News.

Jets MetLife Stadium military American flag
Members of the military hold a large American flag over the field before the start of a game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on September 9, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

WFAN co-host Boomer Esiason called it a "total non-story" considering New York's reported donation to Building for America's Bravest -- a Tunnel to Towers Foundation program that constructs smart homes for badly injured vets -- which was worth nearly three times what the club received in the promo deal.

"This is just another swipe (at the Jets)," Esiason said Monday morning on the "Boomer & Carton" show. "Why isn't the headline, 'Jets make $1 million donation'? Why isn't that the headline?"

Jets Paid To Salute Military

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In total, 14 NFL franchises got $5.4 million from taxpayers over the four-year span in arrangements meant to boost military recruitment, according to NJ.com.

Republican Congressman Peter King told the Daily News that it was "money well spent."

"People watching the NFL are generally inclined to be pro-military," King said. "As far as the Jets, in addition to whatever money they've gotten from the (Department of Defense), I do know they are very actively engaged with veterans. The Jets do far more on balance than they get paid for."

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is leading the charge against federally sponsored salutes by NFL clubs.

"It strikes me as unseemly that these teams realize the public believes they're honoring these service members as a public service," Flake told the Daily News in a statement. "So to find out they're doing it because they're being compensated leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

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