LOS ANGELES — United Airlines offered Friday to withdraw from a $69 million deal to change Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to United Airlines Memorial Coliseum following criticism that adding a corporate name is disrespectful to the facility’s history of honoring troops who fought and died in World War I.
The airline made the offer to the University of Southern California, 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.
The university didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment but acknowledged receiving it.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn criticized the new name this week in a newspaper opinion piece. 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.”
Some veterans joined Hahn in criticizing the change, which the airline insists is well intended.
“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 University of California, Los Angeles, Bruins.
It hosted the 1967 AFL-NFL Championship — retroactively termed the first Super Bowl — and Super Bowl VII in 1973.