Paul Cantor

Nov 17, 2021

3 min read

Staples Center Is Now Crypto.Com Arena and Of Course It Makes No Sense and Total Sense At the Same Time

Today, it was announced that the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, sold its naming rights. Rumored to be the largest deal of its kind, the rights were purchased by crypto exchange crypto.com. The cost: source say $700 million for 20 years.

“I grew up this being Staples and Staples being the place to play, and the place to be. It’ll definitely be weird,” said Paul George of the LA Clippers. “It’s the same location, but it’s kind of like you’re stripping the history here by calling it something else. From there going forward I guess it’s a new history to be written.”

A fair point, because like anything new, the initial stage of accepting it will be awkward; but over time, the awkwardness will fade, until the memory of the Staples Center will be left to those who were there when it was what it was. A new generation will never really know the Staples Center, they’ll only know Crypto.com Arena, and I suppose that, whether crypto is around in twenty years or not, the naming of the arena is fine.

Consider the naming of the Staples Center itself. Staples bought the rights shortly before the arena was built, in 1998. At the time, Staples was a growing business, as the world of personal computing was creating a new retail landscape for office supplies. But now, Staples is just one of many in a crowded industry. To be honest, I’m not even 100% sure how Staples stays in business. Is Staples still in business?

But that’s the thing about the branding. The Lakers, Clippers, all the performers who’ve done concerts inside Staples Center, all the events that have taken place there, have only ever been a part of a corporate experiment in the presentation of public spectacle. There is no real connection between Staples, as an actual business, and Los Angeles. The only connection is this— Staples pays x amount so that, every time you think of this arena, you think of Staples. That’s it.

As much as the news may rankle purists, the truth is that naming rights aren’t a new thing. When Anheuser-Busch bought the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, they changed the name of Sportsman’s Park to Busch Stadium, and from then on, nothing was really the same. Of course it helped, back then, that people drank beer at baseball games, and Anheuser-Busch had its roots in St. Louis.

Now, there has to be some synergy between arenas and their names. So, it is not uncommon to see arenas named after corporate sponsors, no matter how ridiculous they sound. In New Orleans, you have the Smoothie King Center (Smoothie King started in Kenna, LA); in Utah, Vivint Smart Home Arena (Vivint, founded in Provo, UT); in Chicago, Guaranteed Rate Field (that’s a Chi-town based mortgage company, in case you were wondering).

And you would think that a city as massive and world-renowned as Los Angeles, with an arena as legendary as the Staples Center — which saw the Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers make history there, and housed Michael Jackson’s memorial service, numerous award shows and more — would be more cagey about who it gives its naming rights to.

But really, it portends nothing if not a sign of the times. Crypto.com was incorporated in 2016 in Malta, and is headquartered in Singapore. Like much about crypto, its entire existence is a mystery to anyone who isn’t really paying attention; still, it’s the present and the future. Staples — a store selling personal computing items — is the past, and like so much of the past, its history will now be swept away.

What will remain forever and always, will be the memories not of what the arena was named, but what happened inside of it, by the people who did the thing, and those were there. That, no naming rights and no corporate sponsor, can ever take away.

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