football confetti
Denver Broncos' Britton Colquitt makes snow angels in the confetti with his wife Nikki Hairrell after beating the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Championship football gameReuters

American National Football League teams have raked in millions of taxpayer dollars from the Pentagon for putting on half-time tributes to the US military, an investigation has found.

As Congress complains about runaway military budgets, the Department of Defence doled out $5.4m (£3.5m) to 14 NFL teams which presented military tributes at half-time, including announcements, presentations and tickets to soldiers and video tributes on giant stadium screens, reports NJ.com. Almost all of the money was paid by the National Guard.

The New York Jets collected nearly $400,000, most of it from the New Jersey Army National Guard, which triggered a stinging denunciation from Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. He complained that the tributes were seen by the public as heartfelt salutes by their hometown football team, not an advertising campaign paid for with their money. The Jersey Guard said the
presentations are an effective recruiting tool.

"Those of us go to sporting events and see them honouring the heroes," Flake said. "You get a good feeling in your heart. Then to find out they're doing it because they're compensated for it. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

Jets spokesman Bruce Speight said the team has "consistently supported all five branches of the US armed forces" and the commitment was independent from the Jersey Guard's sponsorship. "As with all of our sponsors, we have worked with the National Guard to create tailored advertising and marketing to meet their specific objectives," he added.

A New Jersey senator is calling on the teams to donate the money they received to a charity serving military veterans.

The Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens collected close to $1m (£640,000) each. Money also went to the New York Buffalo Bills, Cincinatti Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, the Dallas Cowboys, Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the St. Louis Rams.