Culture Fail: Coming Soon to Portland: The Monsanto Arena?

By next season the Rose Garden, host to Portland’s beloved Trail Blazers, is likely to have a new name. The Blazers announced a few days ago that they’re searching for a naming-rights sponsor. This may be disappointingly crass, but it’s nothing new. The Utah Jazz (themselves a misnomer) play in EnergySolutions Arena, named after what may be the largest nuclear waste company in the United States. The Cleveland Cavaliers play, poorly, in Quicken Loans Arena, which is only slightly worse than its previous incarnation as the Gund Arena—named not-so-modestly by the owner, John Gund—but still, it’s named after the largest online retail mortgage lender in the United States. Ugh.

And sure, Paul Allen, owner of the Blazers, appears to have more class than Gund, but why does he need the sponsor’s annual payments, estimated to be between $800,000 to $3,000,000, anyways? Last I checked, his net worth was somewhere around $15 billion.

Product placement is everywhere, at all times, inescapable, insidious. Still, it’s a shame that sports, for all their beauty and glory, are tainted as sin—just last year word was leaked that the NBA was considering plastering ads on team jerseys.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that Blazers’ jerseys will have sponsors’ names all over them, just as it’d be inevitable that, in time, we’d accept all this as routine—as have the millions of European football and Nascar fans cheering on their branded stars. But until we’re so numbed, we can be indignant: Is nothing sacred? Must we sell everything out?

So I request the Rose Garden be re-named the Monsanto Arena. Or how about the Lockheed Martin Center? But no, apparently Trail Blazer Team President Chris McGowan is aware of how unseemly these would be, assuring fans that, “We’ll work hard to find someone who makes sense for us and makes sense for Portland.” Apparently he’s watched an episode or two of Portlandia, or fears the overwhelming scorn Aldridge-jersey-wearing hipsters would heap upon the establishment were the Blazers to play in the Exxon-Mobil Stadium.

It’s probably a lost cause, but put it this way: you know how the Green Bay Packers are admired by even the crustiest of Bears fans because they’re the last publicly owned team in the NFL? Well, the Rose Garden is one of the last four arenas in the NBA that does not have a corporate sponsor. Surely at some point the other three—Madison Square Garden, the New Orleans Arena, and the Palace of Auburn Hills—will bow at the altar of unadulterated commercialism, and the Rose Garden would stand alone as the last arena with any moral bearing.

We may not have won a championship in 36 years and counting, and our owner may be a Microsoft tycoon whose wealth equals Ecuador’s GDP, but at least we’d have that.

But we won’t have that. We’ll have the Nike Arena.

by Nathaniel Brodie