When I was 6 years old, my parents took my sister and me to watch the Harlem Globetrotters at the Staples Center. I remember walking in and being captivated by how big it was and all the people inside. Yet, this wasn’t my first time at Staples Center: I had seen Disney On Ice and the Ringling Bros circus each a few times. My memories at the Staples Center also include fangirling as Nicki Minaj made a guest appearance on Taylor Swift’s Fearless Tour, and of course, rooting for the Los Angeles Sparks with my dad. Even watching games at home, I felt the energy of the stadium radiate through my screen — especially when the Lakers finally beat the Boston Celtics during the 2008 NBA Championships or when the Kings were crowned the Stanley Cup Champions in 2012 and 2014. Nothing beat noticing the beaming lights radiating from the roof on game nights while driving down the freeway. For me, Staples Center was not just a sports arena, but also a beloved place that proudly represented my hometown.
When I saw that the Staples Center was now going to be called Crypto.com Arena, I was appalled and furious. I remained in disbelief until ESPN and the L.A. Times released articles confirming the name change. As I assumed, there was a lot of money behind this 20-year naming rights deal, a 700 million dollar contract between Crypto.com and AEG, the company that owns the arena. A few weeks later, I saw a photo on Instagram of the iconic Staples lettering being removed from the arena. That was the moment that really struck me. An era had ended.
How could this happen? I kept asking this to myself as the rebranding took place. It was obvious on social media that native Angelenos, like me, were not taking this news well. It felt like the recent rise of cryptocurrency was overpowering the stadium’s history. I intend on working as a visual arts curator and cryptocurrency has been dominating that field as well, through the incorporation of NFTs. Now crypto is invading my hometown arena too. I really did not know how to make sense of it all.
The bottom line is I felt that AEG and any entities affiliated with the city were disconnecting a legendary establishment full of sports and entertainment history from its iconic name and, therefore, from native Angelenos who have had the name ingrained in our heads. Because the office supply retailer Staples owned the naming rights since the stadium opened in 1999, the name has become synonymous with the energy and achievements held within the center. When I was talking to a friend, shortly after the change was enacted, she said she had completely forgotten the arena had anything to do with the store Staples.
Then there’s Kobe. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, wrote on Instagram the Staples Center was the house that Kobe built. I vividly remember watching his last game and even livestreaming his and his daughter Gianna’s emotional memorial service held at the stadium. I wonder what he would have thought about this naming rights deal. While probably not intentional, it seems to me like AEG is disassociating his history at Staples Center by agreeing to this deal. Although he might have just cared about still having a place to play basketball, regardless of what it was called, the name change will relegate his legacy to a past era instead of an ongoing one.
Even though this deal has already been enacted and nothing can be done about it, I was surprised to see only one online petition with less than 500 signatures and no publicized demonstrations. The only critiques I saw were on social media and a few news outlets. Whether residents of LA like it or not, this is the new name for the next twenty years. With that said, it is important to keep the iconic legacy of the Staples Center alive in our memories.
Ultimately, the historical significance of the center is far more important than which company owns it, but it is disappointing to see a name so closely tied with that history forgone because cryptocurrency is the new fad. While the stadium is still standing, it lacks the name that it was called by during the most prominent moments of its existence and that alone is upsetting. If the name was going to be changed anyway it should have reflected some connection to the city of LA, like how the Minnesota Timberwolves play in the Target Center which is owned by Target, a company founded in Minneapolis.
Despite this unfortunate change, Angelenos should relish their times at Staples Center with even more pride. No matter the name, the arena has so much history that can’t even be fully represented through the statues that line the walkways in front of it. It doesn’t matter that some company, only founded in 2016, headquartered 8,000 miles away from LA in Singapore obtained the naming rights. I will always call it Staples Center in order to preserve the arena’s and my city’s history.