Under the Radar

Sound Off: Are Military Family Reunions at NFL Games a Good Idea?

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Football season is gearing up and we all know what that means: time for military family reunions at halftime! We've already had a lively discussion here about the news that the NFL makes the Pentagon pay for a least some of those game time military tributes. Now comes a scathing post from sports tabloid site Deadspin that calls out the NFL for a surprise (or "surprise") reunion between a Marine and his cheerleader wife during a St. Louis Rams preseason game, a moment the writer calls "peak b******t."

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Before anyone has an aneurysm, it's clear that Deadspin is taking issue with the NFL and its teams, not the men and women who serve their country. If you don't want to read their post, here's a helpful summary in bullet-point form (all opinions expressed below are courtesy of Deadpsin news editor Tom Ley, not us):

  • The reunion was between Marine first lieutenant August Valentine and his wife, Rams cheerleader Candace Ruocco Valentine. The NFL tweeted the video embedded above and the media picked up on yet another heartwarming military reunion.
  • August Valentine's overseas military service was a relatively cushy posting in South Korea. He wasn't exactly placed in harm's way by the USMC.
  • Valentine isn't a working-class kid who joined the Marines to get a shot at a better life. He's a member of the beer-making Busch clan, a family that has pretty much run St. Louis for generations. The Rams once played in a stadium named for his family.
  • Candace Valentine is also a proud 1-percenter. Her family is prominent in Illinois Republican politics and she once interned for Laura Bush at the White House. She doesn't exactly fit the mold of the typical NFL cheerleader.
  • August and Candace were married at the Vatican. How many leathernecks do you know with the connections to set that up?
  • Candace thanks her "mom with a plan" on Facebook for helping make the surprise happen. That same mom is running for Congress and has already shared the video on her campaign pages.
  • There are literally thousands of military families who deserve a surprise reunion and the St. Louis Rams choose to honor an outlier family, one with money and power and political connections and the NFL presents the moment to America in a standard, pre-packaged way designed to give an increasingly controversial league a military halo.
Back to us: I don't think we're going to knock a guy who happens to be the rare member of the 1% who chooses to serve his country. But there are a couple of questions here: do these kinds of ceremonies let the rest of America pat itself on the back and feel like it's "supporting the military" when they shed a sentimental tear? Are these moments the sports equivalent of reality TV, in that everyone knows it's kinda fake and no one cares?

How do you feel about staged reunions at sporting events? Should the military take a stronger role in deciding which couples get reunited? Should sports teams stop trading on military families to make themselves look good? Or should everyone knock it off and enjoy the moment? Sound off!

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November is Military Family Appreciation Month