A $69 million naming rights deal between the University of Southern California and United Airlines is in limbo after the air carrier rejected a school offer to amend a corporate rebranding of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum following criticism that it would disrespect the stadium’s history of honoring World War I troops.
In a statement Friday, USC said it would be open to replacing the already agreed-upon name of United Airlines Memorial Coliseum with a change to United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Los Angeles Times reported.
That same day, United Airlines President Janet Lamkin told the school in a letter that its stance on the name had not changed, adding that the name “is the key provision of our sponsorship agreement.”
The phrase “Memorial Coliseum” was kept in the name to honor the memory of those who fought and died in the war, Lamkin wrote, adding that the air carrier is open to backing out of the deal.
“If USC is not in a position to honor the terms of the Agreement, including in particular the name change,” she wrote, “United would be amenable to abiding by the wishes of the community, stepping away from this partnership with USC.”
The nearly 100-year-old Coliseum is home to the USC Trojans football team and has hosted Super Bowls, the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics, speeches by John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela and a Roman Catholic Mass by Pope John Paul II.
The sponsorship deal is part of a $270 million renovation plan that includes wider seats with more legroom and upgrades to the stadium’s Wi-Fi and plumbing. The naming rights deal came under scrutiny after Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said it would dishonor veterans.
“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.”
Some veterans groups soon joined Hahn in opposition to the name change, according to the paper.
"Vietnam Veterans of America have the motto, 'Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another," Jerry Orlemann, who served in Vietnam, told LAist. "In my opinion, any veteran at this point who does not oppose, and stand up and speak against this renaming is abandoning the generation of veterans who fought and served in World War I."