SBD/February 22, 2013/Facilities

ACLU Calls On FAU To Reconsider Stadium Naming-Rights Deal With Prison Company

GEO Group officials remain hopeful fans will "come around" to their sponsorship
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday called on Florida Atlantic Univ. to "reconsider naming its football stadium for a group that runs prisons” after the school announced a 12-year, $6M naming rights deal with Boca Raton-based GEO Group, according to Hal Habib of the PALM BEACH POST. The ACLU also is “asking the school to disassociate itself from GEO Group, whose CEO, George Zoley, is an FAU alumnus.” GEO Group VP/Corporate Relations Pablo Paez, also an FAU alumnus, said that he was “confident the public ‘will come around’ once it recognizes the positive impact the agreement will have on the university and the area.” ACLU National Prison Project attorney Carl Takei in a statement said, “An educational institution needs to carefully consider the long-term impact on its reputation, its students and its faculty. There are costs to its legacy that the university needs to calculate” (PALM BEACH POST, 2/22). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dieter Kurtenbach wrote public reaction to the naming rights deal "has been swift and negative." GEO Group's Wikipedia page since the announcement “has been edited 23 times -- in 2012, it was edited a total of 11 times” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 2/21). The HUFFINGTON POST’s Jesse Lava wrote the changes to GEO Group's Wikipedia page may be an effort to “minimize the damage.” All the edits “appear to have been performed by someone named Abraham Cohen, and there just happens to be an Abraham Cohen employed by the GEO Group as a spokesman” (HUFFINGTONPOST.com, 2/20).

THE NAME GAME: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert weighed in on the controversial deal during Thursday's episode of "The Colbert Report." He said, “My favorite thing about sports is stadiums named after corporations. It’s win-win. The teams get money and the corporations get advertising that really works. I mean, going to Coors Field makes me crave the Silver Bullet, and anytime I go see the Patriots play at Gillette Stadium I am as hairless as a newborn mole rat. But I was especially -- especially! -- pumped about the latest company to get in on the stadium naming action.” Colbert noted the deal between FAU and the GEO Group and said, "That’s right! A private prison company is sponsoring a sports venue. It’s just like Bank of America Stadium, only this company believes in punishment for crime.” He noted how fans "all across the country love ‘Free Hat Day.'" Colbert: "So think how much they’ll love ‘Free Shiv From A Broken Spoon Night. ... America needs more integration of athletics and for-profit private incarceration. I mean, the Chinese are way ahead of us on this” (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 2/21).
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