League of Fans

Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

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Ralph Nader's op-ed opposing the sale of naming rights to Denver's new football stadium

Whose Stadium Is it Anyway? For Sake of Fans Everywhere, Fight For The Mile High Name
by Ralph Nader

Sometime this week, the Metropolitan Football Stadium District Board of Directors is expected to decide whether to retain the proud Mile High name on Denver's new sports stadium, or to sell it to a corporation that wants you to say its name every time you talk sports.

Invesco Funds Group Inc. is leading the charge of crass commercialism. It wants to pay $120 million to name the stadium "Invesco Field at Mile High. " If the deal goes through, the stadium will doubtless be called Invesco Field.

Just 10 years ago, such corporate naming rights deals were almost nonexistent. Now the tawdry spectacle of corporate-named stadiums is draining the fun out of sports.

Our country is besotted with corporate-named arenas like Qualcomm Stadium, MCI Arena, Enron Field, Pepsi Center, Fleet Center, Arco Arena and Bank One Ballpark. Every one of these corporate names grates on sports fans, who yearn for sports that are untainted by yammering pitchmen and blatant hucksterism.

The sale of naming rights is part of a broader trend -- the ubiquitous ad-plastering and marketeering that accompanies the hostile corporate takeover of so much of our culture and our country.

We are drowning in a ocean of commercialism. We are buried under junk mail, telemarketing, junk faxes and billboards. We are barraged with ads in airport lounges, bus stops, doctors' offices, movie theaters, hospitals, gas stations, elevators, convenience stores, on the Internet, on fruit, beach sand, garbage cans, ATMs and countless other places.

Even worse, our public schools have become showrooms for the delivery of ads to captive audiences of impressionable children. And our elections have been commercialized and corrupted by huge sums of corporate "soft money" campaign contributions.

It's time to reverse the trend. Corporations shouldn't be allowed to own or control everything, including much of our culture. Nor should corporate marketers be allowed to buy or lay claim to every moment of our attention. Denver Mayor Wellington Webb said it best: "not everything should be for sale."

This is not just about a stadium name. This is about whether we might have physical and mental space that is not cluttered by corporate logos nor colonized by the materialistic, self-serving, money-is-everything values of the market.

The Mile High name helps give Denver a sense of place. It builds community. It is a tradition that binds many Coloradans to each other. Take the name away, or shunt it aside with Invesco Field, and the community will miss something. The bonds will loosen. The harm may not be tangible, and you can't measure it in dollars, but the emptiness will be there.

Sports profiteers are overconfident. Sports marketing expert Dean Bonham predicted that "by 2002, virtually every major sports facility in the country will have a naming-rights deal associated with it."

Let's prove him wrong. We don't have to watch ballgames against a backdrop of ads from global corporate hucksters, too many of whom are corporate felons, polluters, tax cheats and corporate welfare recipients.

Taxpayers are paying for three-quarters of the new $364 million stadium with a penny-per-10-dollar sales tax. The Metropolitan Football Stadium District board ought to respect the taxpayers, and whether they wish to attend a game at Mile High.

Public support for keeping the Mile High name is strong and growing. A poll taken in December found that 48 percent of Denver residents want to retain the name Mile High, while only 15 percent want to sell the naming rights.

This is the place to make a stand. For more than 50 years of sports memories. For the good times and the bad times in a stadium that millions loved. For tradition. For community. For Denver's sports heroes.

Sports fans and taxpayers, make your voices heard. Pledge to boycott any company that puts its name on the stadium, like the Invesco Funds Group, and tell the Metropolitan Football Stadium District to keep the name Mile High.