Florida Atlantic University has sold the naming rights to its new football stadium to the GEO Group Inc. If the name is not familiar to you, they run the second-largest chain for for-profit prisons in the U.S. This brings up some interesting observations. First, the $6 million the corporation "gifted" to the university in exchange for the naming rights represents profits from taxpayer money. Second, why does a prison corporation need the publicity of having its name on a stadium?
"It appears to be a charitable gift that is trying to be a marketing vehicle, and it just doesn't make a lot of sense," said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon's business school. "To link themselves with an athletic department when their business is locking people up, it just doesn't connect to me really well."
Critics of the private prison industry said the donation to a public university in Florida falls in line with efforts to gain influence with state and local public officials who decide whether to hand out contracts.
"The company is dependent on public dollars for all of its profits," said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a criminal justice advocacy group. "When you look at other things that GEO gives to, it's generally in communities where they either have contracts or are seeking contracts, and certainly Florida is a state where GEO has tremendous interest."
(Image credit: Florida Atlantic Athletic Department)