Tag Archives: naming rights

Saturday Evening Ethics Update, 4/14/2018: Important Women Die Too, Fundraising Insanity, And Campus Segregation Is “In” Again

Good evening, everyone!

(This morning was completely unmanageable…)

1. This day in history..April 14 belongs with December 7, November 22 and September 11 as the four evil dates in American history, for Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on this day in 1865, yanking the course of events into a new riverbed. Who knows where we might be today if Booth had been foiled?

2. Oh, yeah, themThe New York Times is suddenly including more obituaries of women in its pages, the result of a ridiculously late realization last month that the paper’s  stories of death warranting special note had been overwhelmingly male from the paper’s birth. In March, the paper confessed,

Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones.

Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre”; Emily Warren Roebling oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now.

It is a welcome reform. The Times is also looking back over history to remedy the past bias and injustice, launching a special project to publish, a bit late, many of those obituaries that it had failed to write when remarkable women died. You can find the latest additions here.

3. What’s going on here? Wall Street billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman agreed to give $25 million to the Abington, Pennsylvania high school he attended  in the 1960s. The money would finance  a massive upgrade in the facility. The school, in return, agreed to name the school in his honor, hang a portrait of him in the building, honor his twin brothers elsewhere in the school, and give him the right to review the project’s contractors and approve a new school logo.

Then the deal was announced. Local residents appeared at a standing-room-only, five-hour school board meeting last week to protest.  There was an online petition (naturally), and calls for school officials to resign.  And what was it about the quid pro quo that the people objected to? The quote from Robert Durham, who works at the local Chevrolet dealership and sent two sons through Abington Senior High School is explanatory as any:

“I just think there’s too much influence about big money, Wall Street money, in our society,” he told reporters.

Oh. Continue reading

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Observations On The George Mason Law School Renaming Debacle

Scalia Law School

Summary: On March 31, George Mason University announced that it was changing the name of its law school, which has rapidly risen from marginal status into respectability in the last few years, to the Antonin Scalia School of Law. The reason: a 30 million dollar contribution from the Charles Koch Foundation, a.k.a. the Koch Brothers and an anonymous donor, who made the name change a condition of his or her generosity. This occurring while the various controversies over Scalia’s legacy and the Supreme Court’s deadlock since his passing were still raging guaranteed indignation from many quarters, including many students and graduates of the law school. The internet and social media communities, meanwhile, having the emotional maturity of fifth graders, concentrated its efforts at snickering over the new school’s acronym, which could be ASSoL, and the Twitter handle, #ASSLAW.

The resulting embarrassment led the school’s Dean to announce  that the name of the school was being altered to “Antonin Scalia Law School.”

Comments:

1. Ethics Alarms had a recent post expressing dismay at the willingness of baseball teams to sell the identity of their ballparks to corporations. This is much worse. George Mason is perhaps the most unjustly forgotten of all the Founders, as he was largely responsible for there being a Bill of Rights in our Constitution The fact that George Mason University and its law school has been slowly rising in prestige and visibility had helped to remedy the unjust obscurity of a historical figure to whom every citizen and the world owes a debt of thanks. George Mason’s honor, however, was considered expendable once the school’s leaders knew the price that using the law school for ideological propaganda could bring at a time of sharp partisan division.

2. Rich people have a right to use their money to make others do things that they shouldn’t or normally wouldn’t want to. The issue is whether there are ethical limits to the kinds of actions and conduct money should be used to buy. Rich families have used their assets to defeat true love, paying  unsuitable suitors to leave without explanation. Desperate celebrities have accepted checks to debase themselves on reality shows. Judas was paid to betray Jesus Christ. Where does using one’s millions to induce a university to betray its duties to alumni and students, as well as other donors and the memory of a crucial American patriot, fall on the spectrum?

3. Was George Mason University obligated to accept 30,000,000 dollars under these conditions? Should money supersede all other considerations for an educational institution? No, and no. Allowing the school to be turned into a billboard for conservative jurisprudence did more than simply alter the name. It altered the perception of the law school, the meaning of its degrees, its public image and its ability to attract a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds. If the school’s leadership didn’t comprehend that, it was a stunning example of institutional incompetence and irresponsible decision-making.

4. If the school’s leadership did comprehend the gravamen of the name change and allowing partisan tycoons to bend the school’s management to their will, then the decision was even less defensible. There was an absolute obligation to consult with the stakeholders in this trade-off: students, alumni, and donors. Failing that obligation constituted a stunning breach of trust. Continue reading

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From The “Everybody Does It” Files: “Welcome to Chico’s Bail Bonds Park!”

Bad News Bears

The Washington Nationals announced this week that it has partnered with Major League Baseball Advanced Media and the consulting firm Korn Ferry to sell naming rights to Nationals Park, as the team’s home field has been known since it opened in 2008.

After all, the team explains, plastering a corporation’s name on the ballpark could add between ten and twenty million dollars a year to the team’s revenue, and imagine how much better the team will be with another starting pitcher or slugging outfielder. Why wouldn’t a team sell its home’s name, and a large chunk of its identity, to a bank, a website, or a pet supplies company?

I admit it: being a life-time fan of the Boston Red Sox, who play in one of the the ten major league parks ( the others: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, Kauffman Stadium, Marlins Park, Nationals Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Turner Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium ) belonging to teams that have not accepted filthy lucre to mar their stadium entrances with the names of companies Bernie Sanders would hate, I find the idea revolting.  A baseball team represents its community; its lore becomes part of the culture and shared memories passed downfthrough generations.. That has value, and symbolic significance. How much is it worth? It’s priceless, or should be. Continue reading

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Law vs. Ethics: A Snatched Bar Mitzvah Gift, A Leaky AG, An Embarrassing Scoreboard, and”OINK”

Oink

I try to keep my legal ethics seminars up-to-the-minute, so while preparing for yesterday’s session with the Appellate Section of the Indiana Bar, I came across a bunch of entertaining stories in which the ethics were a lot clearer than the law, or vice-versa. All of them could and perhaps should sustain separate posts; indeed, I could probably devote the blog entirely to such cases.

Here are my four favorites from the past week’s legal news, involving a mother-son lawsuit, a brazenly unethical attorney general, a college scoreboard named after a crook, and police officer’s sense of humor: Continue reading

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Georgetown Law Center and The Case Of The Double-Crossed Donor

Sometimes those naming deals backfire, you know?

Sometimes those naming deals backfire, you know?

Scott K.  Ginsburg, a media mogul who got a J.D. from Georgetown Law Center in 1978, had been wooed by the school’s development team for a major gift when he was riding high, amassing billions in the 1990s. He agreed to contribute some pocket change–five million bucks—to build a new fitness center that would bear his name. The deal was put into writing, and the University issued a cheerful press release. Then, in 1999, shortly after the agreement was reached,  the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit against Ginsburg, accusing him of passing along inside information to his father and brother. A jury agreed with the SEC, and he was orderedto pay $1 million in fines. After a flurry of appeals, the verdict stuck. (NOTE: In the first version of this post, I implied that this was a criminal case. It wasn’t: this was a regulatory lawsuit, and a civil verdict. A dumb error on my part, and I apologize to readers and Mt. Ginsburg for the misinformation.)

While all of this was going on, the Law Center, understandably, got nervous. Although Ginsburg was not a practicing attorney at the time, law schools don’t like having facilities named after grads who have been found to have violated laws or regulations in high-profile cases. In 2002, then-Georgetown Law Center Dean Judith Areen sent Ginsburg a letter thanking him for his support but also asking to revise the agreement, eliminating the promise of naming rights.  Areen said the school would find some way to “honor your gift without generating negative media coverage.”  Ginsburg, however, refused to sign on. As the years went by and the school continued to promote his gift as enticement to other donors as well as hitting him up for more money, he assumed the Scott K. Ginsburg Health and Fitness Center was under construction. There’s a fitness center, all right, on the GULC campus, but Ginsburg’s name isn’t on it. Now he is suing the Law Center, alleging that it reneged on the deal. Continue reading

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Now THIS Is Disloyalty…

Good ol' whatshisname. We'll never forget him.

…also ingratitude, venality, and crassness.

Baseball’s  Kansas City Royals are putting the name of their ball park, now Kauffman Staudium, up for corporate bidding. Soon the stadium that stood as a monument to the late Kansas City community leader Ewing Kauffmann, who owned the Royals in their very first season (1969), built the state-of-the-art home for them that is still a source of civic pride, and turned the team into a model franchise and perennial pennant contender in record time, will be named “Kansas City Masterpiece Stadium” or something else that makes it a giant billboard. Meanwhile, little will be left to remind future baseball fans and Kansas City residents of the life and dedication of the man who was responsible for the city having a major league team at all. Continue reading

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“Welcome to AshleyMadison Stadium!”

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. Continue reading

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