In an interesting bit of corporate jiu jitsu, the Philadelphia 76ers will cease referring to their home arena as the “Wells Fargo Center”—its corporate-sponsored name—reports the Associated Press. Instead, the 76ers will refer to it as “The Center” or their “home arena,” seemingly in retaliation after “the financial institution chose not to become a business partner with the basketball franchise.”
Comcast Spectacor has owned the arena since its opening in 1996. At the time they signed a $40 million, 29-year (it expires in 2024) naming rights agreement with CoreStates Financial Corporation. Through a succession of bank mergers, the arena has been called the CoreStates Center (1996-98), First Union Center (1998-2003), Wachovia Center (2003-10), and, most recently, the Wells Fargo Center (2010-present). Way back in 2001, when CoreStates was in the process of acquiring Wachovia and announced plans to rebrand the arena, Comcast Spectacor wasn’t happy, but said the original contract allowed for unlimited name changes as long as the sponsor covered all costs.
It’s impossible to know for sure without having access to the original sponsorship agreement, but it seems pretty likely that the 76ers receive no cut of the naming rights agreement. And if Wells Fargo isn’t paying them, and is declining to engage in some sort of business relationship, why exactly should the 76ers give them what amounts to free advertising? As 76ers chief revenue officer Chris Heck told the AP, “ ... that particular bank is currently not a sponsor of the Philadelphia 76ers.” You can see evidence of the decision in a recent 76ers news release, about how they will unveil their new uniforms on June 18 “at a special event held at the Sixers’ home arena (3601 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19148).”
Here at Deadspin, for the first time in awhile, we support the 76ers. If you’re not getting paid to do a brand’s work for it—say, by calling an arena by some dumb name—you shouldn’t do that work. We don’t really do official policies around here, and we’ll surely mess this up, but we’re probably going to try and follow the 76ers’ lead. So the next time you read us writing about something occurring at Tropicana Field, feel free to (politely) drop into the comments and remind us that we aren’t getting free juice boxes, and that it’s actually the Florida Suncoast Dome.