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United Airlines offers to withdraw from Coliseum naming rights deal with USC

FILE - This Jan. 13, 2016 file photo shows the peristyle of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los
USC’s sale of naming rights for Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is being criticized as dishonoring the historic stadium’s dedication as a memorial to soldiers who fought and died in World War I.
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

United Airlines offered Friday to withdraw from a $69-million deal to change Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into United Airlines Memorial Coliseum following criticism that adding a corporate name is disrespectful to the stadium’s history of honoring troops who fought and died in World War I.

The airline made the offer to USC, which announced the agreement for the naming rights last year as part of its extensive $270-million renovation of the nearly century-old landmark.

United Airlines California President Janet Lamkin said in a letter to USC official Todd Dickey that the company made “a significant commitment to financing this project” in exchange for the naming rights and was careful to keep the words “Memorial Coliseum” to honor the memory of veterans.

“If USC is not in a position to honor the terms of the agreement, including in particular the name change, United would be amenable to abiding by the wishes of the community, stepping away from this partnership with USC, and mutually terminating the agreement,” Lamkin wrote in the letter obtained by the Associated Press.

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USC says it’s amenable to accepting the wishes of veterans and modifying a name change as long as United Airlines agrees.

USC issued a statement Friday saying it would accept the name United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum instead of the planned United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. USC noted that the contract would have to be modified but didn’t elaborate.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn criticized the new name this week in The Times. She is president of the Coliseum Commission, a government authority that gave USC control of the stadium several years ago under a long-term lease that called for massive facility improvements.

“Unlike other modern sports venues, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is not just a stadium — it is a war memorial,” Hahn wrote in the Los Angeles Times this week. “Removing ‘Los Angeles’ and replacing it with a corporate sponsor insults the memories of those the Coliseum was intended to honor.”

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Some veterans joined Hahn in criticizing the change, which the airline insists is well-intended.

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“From United’s perspective, the agreed-upon new name is the key provision of our sponsorship agreement with USC, underscoring our deep commitment to the community and its cherished institutions,” Lamkin wrote.

The Coliseum hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics and will get the Games again in 2028. It’s the temporary home of the NFL’s Rams since their return from St. Louis and is a past home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the former Los Angeles Raiders and the UCLA Bruins.

It hosted the 1967 AFL-NFL Championship — retroactively termed the first Super Bowl — and Super Bowl VII in 1973.


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