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The Bleacher Bums: February 3, 2009 Archive

What's in a name?

Posted at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2009 by Chris Dall


For years, American sports fans have grumbled about the corporatization of America's stadiums. But as the Enron Fields have morphed into the Minute Maid Parks and Qualcomm Stadiums of the world, a grudging acceptance of the reality of corporate naming rights has evolved. We may not like it, but mostly we just shrug our shoulders, wonder why they can't name stadiums after dead people like they used to, and live with it.

Looks like the recession, and the complicity of America's banks in the tanking of the economy, might be changing things. Last week, in the time-honored tradition of political grandstanding, two members of Congress, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Ted Poe of Texas, asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to dissolve the $400 million naming rights deal between Citigroup and the New York Mets for the yet-to-be-christened Citi Field. Why? Because Citigroup just received $45 billion in TARP money. Citigroup, for their part, says none of the $400 million will come from the money received from the treasury. Maybe so, but it sure doesn't look good.

Now, in the time-honored tradition of caving to political pressure, it looks like Citigroup might be changing it's mind. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Citigroup is now considering backing out of the deal on it's own, a development that people within the Mets are denying. Given the money that Mets owner Fred Wilpon lost in the Bernie Madoff scam, I'm not so sure the Mets want to part with that money.

Personally, while I understand to financial need for naming rights deals, I'm not sure any professional team should want to be partners with a company associated with pulling down the entire American economy. And who knows, in the current economy, maybe corporate America will decide there are better ways to spend money. I mean, really, does Target need its name on more structures in this town?

Stay tuned.

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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