Florida Atlantic University, like so many other collegiate institutions, agreed to name its football stadium for a company. It’s no ordinary company specializing in financial services or snack foods or something, however. The new corporate sponsor is the GEO Group, which runs private prisons.
According to a piece in the New York Times:
The GEO Group, which is based in Boca Raton, secured the naming rights with a $6 million gift, paid out over 12 years through its charitable arm, the largest such donation in Florida Atlantic’s athletic history. In a news release, the university said the money would finance athletic operations, the stadium, scholarships and “academic priorities.”
The stadium, which opened in the fall of 2011, cost $70 million and seats more than 29,000. It offers 6,000 premium seats, 24 suites and 26 loge boxes.
GEO’s chairman, George Zoley, graduated form Florida Atlantic and once served as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
GEO Group manages more than 100 state and federal prisons and detention centers for illegal immigrants in North America, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The company has been subject to numerous lawsuits relating to prisoner abuse and neglect.
This doesn’t, of course, mean the prison company is necessarily guilty of abuse and neglect, but Bob Libal, who runs a nonprofit opposed private prisons, characterized the naming decision as “like calling something Blackwater Stadium. This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses… unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility.”
Florida Atlantic’s president said the deal was “wonderful” and characterized the company as “well run.”
Whatever, I demand reciprocity. I think the GEO Group needs to name a jail with reference to Florida Atlantic’s mascott. Owlsey the Burrowing Owl Correctional Facility has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?