WASHINGTON - September 28 - In a test of the growing resistance to corporate names for civic and cultural institutions, San Francisco voters will decide on November 2nd whether the name of famed Candlestick Park will be sold to the highest corporate bidder. The stadium is taxpayer-owned and home to the NFL San Francisco 49ers.
If the voters so decide, Proposition H would declare Candlestick Park the stadiums official name. San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez championed the effort to put Proposition H on the ballot, with support from Supervisors Tom Ammiano, Chris Daly and Gerardo Sandoval.
Across the political spectrum, voters and sports fans are fed up with the intrusion of corporate marketers into every part of our lives and culture, Gonzalez said. "I doubt voters in San Francisco will want to trade local history and everything associated with Candlestick Park just for more corporate advertising."
Today, the 49ers are expected to announce a deal to sell naming rights to Candlestick to Monster Cable products. We hope people will call the stadium The Monstrosity until Election Day, said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert. It is a sign of the decline in our values that we sell the names of our civic and cultural institutions, rather than name them after our heroes or history, Ruskin said.
Another problem with placing corporate names on civic institutions is that some cities end up promoting corporate wrongdoers. In the era of corporate scandals, the sale of naming rights is an accident waiting to happen, Ruskin said. San Francisco could easily get tarred with the misdeeds of its corporate partner, if it becomes a corporate criminal or wrongdoer. Who knows? Monster Cable may end up as the next corporate monster,
So far, the sale of naming rights has embarrassed a lot of cities:
Houston is the poster child for naming rights disasters. The Houston Astros used to play on Enron Field. That speaks for itself. It was re-named Astros Field and then Minute Maid Park in 2002. Minute Maid is owned by Coca-Cola, which settled the largest racial discrimination suit in history, for $192.5 million.
The Houston Texans play at Reliant Stadium, which is named after Reliant Energy. A subsidiary of that company, Reliant Energy Services, is under a six-count indictment along with four of its officers and employees, for a conspiracy to defraud the California electricity market and to manipulate electricity prices.
The Baltimore Ravens played at PSINet stadium until 2002, when the company went bankrupt.
The Denver Broncos currently play at Invesco Field at Mile High. In September, Invesco (and AIM Securities) paid a $450 million settlement over securities fraud charges.
The Colorado Rockies play at Denvers Coors Field, which is named after a major polluter the Adolph Coors Company. The company paid a $200,000 criminal fine and pled guilty to two criminal misdemeanor counts of contaminating groundwater and failing to report the contamination to regulatory authorities.
The New England Patriots played at CMGI Stadium until 2002, when the company nearly went bankrupt.
The Miami Heat play at the American Airlines Arena and the Dallas Mavericks play at the American Airlines Center, which are named after a big polluter. In 1999, American Airlines pled guilty to illegal storage of hazardous waste, and paid an $8 million criminal fine.
The St. Louis Rams played at the Trans World Dome until 2001, when TWA filed for bankruptcy for a third time, and was bought by AMR, the parent company of American Airlines.
The Florida Panthers played at the National Car Rental Center until 2002, when Nationals parent company, ANC Rental, went bankrupt.
MCI Center still hosts the Washington Wizards, even though MCI Worldcom committed one of the largest corporate frauds in history.
The Tennessee Titans played at Adelphia Coliseum, but the name was changed after the company's owners were charged with pillaging the company.
The Seattle Seahawks are playing at Qwest Field. Their former senior vice president, Tom Hall, recently announced that hell plead guilty to charges from Qwests accounting scandal.
Overwhelming majorities of Americans are sick of advertisers efforts to dangle an ad in front of us at every waking moment. According to a Yankelovich Partners poll in April, 60% of Americans have a much more negative opinion of marketing and advertising now than a few years ago, 61% of Americans feel the amount of marketing and advertising is out of control, 65% feel constantly bombarded with too much advertising and marketing, and 65% think there should be more limits and regulations on marketing and advertising. (To read the poll, go to http://www.commercialalert.org/Yankelovich.pdf.)
Each day, Americans are assaulted with an amazing array of advertising, including pop-ups, pop-unders, telemarketing, billboards, spam, TV commercials, product placements, junk mail, junk faxes, Ruskin said.
Candlestick Park opened in 1960. After naming rights were sold, it was renamed 3Com Park between 1995-2001. Following public opposition to the re-sale of naming rights, San Francisco Board of Supervisors refused to sell naming rights in 2002 and 2003. But in July, the Board of Supervisors approved the sale of naming rights to Candlestick.
Proposition H states Be it ordained by the People of the City and County of San Francisco
.[that] [t]he City-owned sports stadium located at Candlestick Point, at Jamestown Street and Harney Way, is hereby named and shall be referred to as Candlestick Park. This ordinance shall not apply to any privately-owned facility that may in the future be constructed at that location.