In an inspired bit of P.R. wizardry, the adultery-facilitating website AshleyMadison.com has made a serious bid for “naming rights” for New Meadowlands Stadium, the just-completed new home of the N.F.L.’s Jets and Giants. The site’s founder, Noel Biderman, has sent a letter to the CEO of New Meadowlands stating that they “are prepared to make a preliminary offer … of $25,000,000 for the Naming Rights for a five-year term” and would match any higher offer by other parties.
The N.F.L. isn’t going to let one of its stadiums be named after an adultery website, as Biderman well knows. But maybe Biderman has done the N.F.L. a favor by slapping it across the face and giving it a chance to avoid the venal, values-abandoning path that Major League Baseball adopted more than a decade ago when it allowed teams to sell naming rights of its new parks and stadiums to the highest corporate bidder, turning venues for classic sporting contest into billboard for banks, fly-by-night dotcoms and worse.
The Houston Astros, we should never forget, played for a time in “Enron Field.” There are a number of noble holdouts against the trend, but still: there are three baseball parks named after beers, three after banks, two after orange juice companies, an insurance company, Target, FedEx, Petco, and a bunch of telecommunications giants. The N.F.L. is behind this curve, in part because its teams play in older facilities, including some abandoned baseball stadiums, and corporate money for naming rights is scarce in this economic climate. Sooner or later, however, A.I.G. Stadium and BP Park will be real possibilities.
Easily the worst example of this phenomenon , other than the Enron debacle, was when the San Diego Padres’ stadium (the N.F.L. Chargers also play there) re-named itself after Qualcomm, in part because it wanted to be honored in the Guinness Book of Records for the ugliest and most difficult to spell stadium name ever, but mostly because Qualcomm forked over millions of dollars. San Diego and team had previously dedicated the stadium to the memory of its late sportswriter Jack Murphy, who is given credit for keeping the Padres in San Diego by using his column, wit and words to build public support for a new park when it looked as if the lack of one would force the baseball team to relocate. This act of civic gratitude only lasted until a big company was willing to pay to have Murphy’s name and contribution to the community forgotten.
Stay classy, San Diego.
Something similar happened to New York City attorney and civic leader William Shea, after whom New York’s Shea Stadium was named in “eternal” gratitude for his successful efforts to return a National League team to the city. The dewy-eyed thanks of old Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants fans, however, couldn’t compete with Citibank, which now owns the naming rights to the Mets’ new stadium. Bill Shea? He’s lunching with Jack Murphy in the Obscurity Cafe.
At least before this practice becomes completely acceptable, AshleyMadison’s offer serves to remind us that dignity, images, reputation and associations matter, and sports teams bearing the names of cities and regions have an obligation to represent the best values of those communities. Lest we forget Enron Field, AshleyMadison’s stunt demonstrates to sports executives and city officials that there is a bottom to this barrel, and we aren’t all that far from it already.
3 thoughts on ““Welcome to AshleyMadison Stadium!””
In the meantime, the fabled Astrodome- once dubbed the 8th Wonder of the World- sits vacant in the shadow of a glittering hunk of glass and masonry called Reliant Stadium. Reliant Energy Corp. may get the “glory”, but the taxpayers are still hurting from their “contribution”.
As well as having the further audacity to rename the now out-of-use facility as the “Reliant Astrodome,” (just to rub it in) turning the Summit (former home of the Rockets) into the “Compaq Center” before it was super-ceded by the massive “Toyota Center” (eventually redesigned and reopened as the new home of Lakewood Church .. another corporation) and finally, the aforementioned “Enron Field” became the 2nd orange juice stadium: Minute Maid Park.
One can only hope cities themselves start getting into the name-changing business as well and then the real fun can begin.
As a side note, though not corporate, naming at the University of Houston has gone overly crazy in recent years with entire floors, pavilions, and even offices being named after donors. The most ridiculous example came some years back when Robertson Stadium needed renovations which were paid for by the now-deceased John O’Quinn, who insisted on having his name included. Thus it is now the “John O’Quinn Field *at* Robertson Stadium.”
Dear Neil”: As a Houstonian myself, I’m well aware of that! I’m also aware that the Houston Sports Authority- who is responsible for this major league madness- takes their cut out of my earnings for all this in numerous, subtle ways. Now they’re trying to push this idiotic soccer stadium as well. Judge Hofheinz built the Astrodome as an all-venues arena with a convention complex built around it… along with the sadly defunct Astroworld theme park. And it worked well, too. But it wasn’t BIG enough or splashy enough. How long it will take us to pay for all this is anyone’s guess. The entry prices are already so inflated that you practically have to be a big corporate executive to get past the parking lots. When it comes to municipal extortion rackets, Houston could teach Chicago a thing or two!