By USO Staff
Imagine a Sunday afternoon in autumn. For many Americans, that vision includes an NFL game or two. Football connects Americans the way that the USO connects service members to what’s most important to them: family, home and country. These two organizations come together every November to celebrate the NFL’s Salute to Service, yet the partnership lasts year-round – as it has for over 55 years.
The USO and the NFL first joined forces in 1966 with the very first USO-NFL tour, which brought NFL Hall of Famers Willie Brown, Sam Huff, Frank Gifford and Johnny Unitas to Vietnam to visit deployed service members. Since then, more than 250 NFL players and coaches have joined USO tours to nearly 30 countries, with other NFL notables like Terry Bradshaw, Drew Brees and Bill Cowler.
The USO-NFL Entertainment Tours continue today, but make up just one aspect of both the USO and the NFL’s commitment to honoring, empowering and connecting the nation’s service members. They support a range of programs that entertain and encourage the military community, both at home and overseas.
“We are extremely grateful for our partnership with the NFL, which allows us to bring football and so much more to our Armed Forces serving and protecting us around the world,” said USO Senior Director Chris Fowler.
The NFL’s incredible support over the years has allowed the USO to expand its programs and services around the globe and continue to focus on its mission. Just a few highlights from 2022 include:
Salute to Service Showdown: USO Gaming Madden NFL 23 Tournament
In November 2022, the top eight players of a gaming tournament that began earlier in September came together in Las Vegas for the finals. In partnership with the USO, the NFL awarded the top two winners (one for the Xbox platform and one for PlayStation) two tickets each to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona in February 2023.
The Salute to Service Showdown was open to active-duty service members, National Guard members and military reservists across the United States. The USO and the NFL also support online gaming opportunities throughout the year, bringing service members a way to relax, recharge and connect socially.
NFL Kick-Off USO Care Package Event
In September 2022, fans and USO volunteers gathered at the NFL Kickoff Experience in Los Angeles, where volunteers, corporate partners and military supporters came together to assemble thousands of USO Care Packages. In just that one event alone, 10,000 USO Care Packages were assembled to be shipped and hand-delivered to service members during the holidays. These care package-stuffing events are an excellent way for the military supporter community to come together, donate their time and express their gratitude to service members.
USO Care Packages include popular snacks and portable beverage mixes to bring service members overseas a taste of home. During the holidays, the USO also delivers USO Holidays Care Packages, which include seasonal items such as hot chocolate, candy canes, warm socks and more. When they receive these care packages, service members know they aren’t forgotten during a time of year when most people are among family and friends.
USO-NFL Mobile Gaming Trailer
The USO-NFL Mobile Gaming Trailer made its public debut in Las Vegas in April 2022 as part of the NFL Draft. Measuring 35 feet in length, the trailer boasts eight gaming stations, five televisions and a surround sound system. Service members especially appreciate the free Wi-Fi access, which can be used to stay in touch with loved ones back home.
This trailer joins the Mobile USO fleet of vans and vehicles that support the military on the road. These USO-centers-on-wheels have many of the amenities of a brick-and-mortar USO center (free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, snacks, comfortable seating, etc.) but are able to meet our troops where they need us most. Whether service members are conducting grueling training in the field or deployed to disaster zones to help with relief efforts, the Mobile USO team is always ready to hit the road to provide service members a home away from home in the most remote locations and during the most stressful assignments.
As the USO-NFL Gaming Trailer travels to locations around the U.S., it brings service members a chance to relax, recharge and connect with their fellow service members. Notable stops for 2022 included the Texas border, New York Fleet Week, the USO Fort Knox Gaming Convention and the 2022 Salute to Service Showdown Gaming Tournament in Las Vegas. Next stop for the USO-NFL Gaming Trailer is Pensacola Navy Exchange (NEX) in Florida.
New USO Center in Greenland
Toward the end of 2022, the USO will open its newest center at Thule Air Base in Greenland. The center, which was fully funded by the NFL, will provide hundreds of military members from multiple branches with a warm and welcoming place to step away and have a moment to relax from their high-pressure day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
With computers, reliable Wi-Fi access and gaming consoles, service members can socialize with one another and connect with loved ones. They can relax in the lounge, watching TV and movies while enjoying complimentary snacks and beverages that remind them of home.
In an austere and challenging location such as Greenland, these kinds of resources are crucial to maintaining the morale and operational readiness of our airmen, guardians and other service members who are stationed at Thule Air Base.
A Lasting Collaboration
“The tremendous partnership between the NFL and the USO remains as strong today as when it started many decades ago,” said NFL’s Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson.
“The NFL is proud of our long-standing partnership that enables the USO to empower and connect service members around the world, and we’re excited to continue working together so the positive impacts on the military community extend to future generations.”
The USO recognizes and appreciates the NFL as a Force Behind the Forces® for all they do to strengthen our military by bringing service members, families and fans together through a shared love of football.
More Stories Like This
The USO and the NFL are a Winning Team
For over 50 years, the USO and NFL have joined forces to keep service members connected to family, home and country. More than 180 NFL players, officials, coaches and executives have taken part in 49 tours to 24 countries during that span, creating a partnership that has become essential to both organizations.
Eight Military Finalists Head to Las Vegas for the USO-NFL Salute to Service Showdown
Eight service members who are semifinalists in the USO-NFL Salute to Service Showdown EA Sports™ Madden NFL Tournament are headed to Las Vegas to compete for the championship title.
It’s Not ‘Just a Video Game’: For Many of Today’s Military, It's Their Connection Home
Video games are more than just a game – they’re a way for service members to fight stress, isolation and to bond with their fellow troops. Here’s how USO-hosted gaming centers and video game tournaments are helping the military during tough deployments, assignments and beyond.
Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.
More from the USO
Jun 1, 2023
After Super Typhoon Mawar Devastated the Island of Guam, Service Members Help the Community Recover – and the USO is There to Help Our Service Members
Super Typhoon Mawar has made landfall on the U.S. territory island of Guam, and has left devastation in its wake. As U.S. service members respond and provide natural disaster relief, the USO is right by their side, providing support along the way.
May 31, 2023
USO Camp Shows, D-Day and Entertaining Troops on the European Front Lines in WWII
USO Camp Shows, Inc., a subsidiary of the USO, was tasked with providing live entertainment to troops during World War II. From the moment the U.S. entered the war — to D-Day, VE Day and beyond — USO performers gave over 420,000 performances for 130+ million service member attendees.