The planned renaming of the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is being criticized as dishonoring the venue’s dedication to service members who fought and died in World War I.
The University of Southern California, which uses the nearly 100-year-old stadium for football games, is selling the naming rights for $69 million to help fund a $270 million renovation plan. The structure will reportedly be known as United Airlines Memorial Coliseum.
But not everyone in L.A. is happy about the deal.
“It’s a real slap in the face to the 116,000 killed in World War I,” said Stephen Peck, a Vietnam War veteran and president of the nonprofit U.S. Vets. “If someone wanted to buy the naming rights to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it would cause an uproar. This is no different.”
“It’s a real slap in the face to the 116,000 killed in World War I. If someone wanted to buy the naming rights to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it would cause an uproar. This is no different.”
“Unlike other modern sports venues, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is not just a stadium — it is a war memorial,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “Removing ‘Los Angeles’ and replacing it with a corporate sponsor insults the memories of those the Coliseum was intended to honor.”
Hahn serves as president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, which gave control of the venue to USC several years ago.
The university said Thursday that the contract will take the Coliseum through 2111 and specified the naming sponsorship must include the words “Memorial Coliseum.” In a statement, the school defended the sponsorship and its commitment to veterans.
“The university’s commitment to veterans is long-standing and this naming rights agreement provides an investment to make sure the historic venue is preserved for future generations and continues to honor veterans,” it said.
“The university’s commitment to veterans is long-standing and this naming rights agreement provides an investment to make sure the historic venue is preserved for future generations and continues to honor veterans.”
The Coliseum hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics and will be part of the 2028 games in Los Angeles. It has also served as the temporary home of the Los Angeles Rams since the football team relocated from St. Louis and once hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers, the former Los Angeles Raiders and the UCLA Bruins.
The Coliseum also hosted the first Super Bowl, Super Bowl VII in 1973, John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass, Nelson Mandela and many concerts.
The money from the purchase of the naming rights will fund facility upgrades, United Airlines said in a statement.
“These improvements were also intended to ensure that an institution that was dedicated to the memory of Los Angeles veterans would remain a source of pride for future generations of Angelenos,” the statement said.
The controversy is just the latest for USC, which has been linked to the recent college admissions scandal involving Hollywood celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, as well as claims of widespread sexual misconduct by a longtime campus gynecologist and an investigation into a medical school dean accused of smoking methamphetamine with a woman who overdosed.
Last week USC installed Carol Folt, former chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as its 12th president and the first permanent female president in school history, as it looks to usher in a new era.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.