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Grip on Sports: What’s in a name? Occasionally it’s hypocrisy

In this Feb. 9, 2017, photo, the Space Needle rises just behind the KeyArena in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
In this Feb. 9, 2017, photo, the Space Needle rises just behind the KeyArena in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • We don’t venture into the realm of political discussion in this space all that often, but some times the hypocrisy of government makes it unavoidable. One of those times happened this week in Seattle. Read on.


• The City of Seattle would like to have an in-town arena that is thought of in the same breath as Safeco and CenturyLink fields.

Years ago, a developer named Chris Hansen brought a plan to the city to build one in the area south of those stadiums.

It was a privately funded facility. But in a convoluted tale worthy of a Netflix series, Hansen’s arena plan has been shunted to the wayside. The current – and past – darling of the city is Key Arena. Yes, the ancient grand dame, which has already been remodeled once, is set for another facelift.

Seattle is moving forward with its plan, despite the other political problems facing the city.

And, despite Hansen recent attempt to assuage the city’s worries about Key Arena remaining a white elephant, Seattle is hell-bent on making a deal with the Oak View Group to remodel the place.

That’s fine.

But the devils are in the details. And there is one devil in the memo of understanding between the City and OVG released yesterday that makes my eyes smoke.

It has to do with naming rights. The paragraph defining what is and what isn’t acceptable. (The italics are mine.)

“OVG will have the right to designate the name of the Arena, and to name other areas within the boundaries of the Premises. The name of the Arena is subject to the prior approval of the Seattle Center Director, which approval will not be unreasonably withheld, conditioned, or delayed. Unless the City agrees otherwise, the name given to the Arena will not include reference to any state, local or other municipality name unless such reference is to ‘Seattle.’ Names for other areas within the boundaries of the Premises shall not relate or refer to guns; pornography or ‘adult’ entertainment; tobacco; marijuana (or marijuana products) or illegal drugs or paraphernalia; or otherwise contain vulgar or obscene language.”

Laudable isn’t it?

The City of Seattle doesn’t want any name in the area related to anything that is harmful to our youth. Nothing to encourage the underage to use products that harm them.

You know, like Budweiser or Jack Daniels.

Wait. Those products are OK. No cigarettes or weed. But booze, that’s fine.

You have any idea how many people die every year in this country from alcohol-related causes?

The Centers for Disease Control estimates 88,000. That about five Key Arena’s worth of folks. Every year.

Now that number pales in comparison to the people that die yearly due to tobacco-related causes. The CDC pegs that estimate at 480,000. So it makes sense not to encourage cigarette use. Besides, the federal government bans almost all tobacco sponsorship and advertisements anyway.

And marijuana? Well, like tobacco, it doesn’t cause overdoses. But it can contribute to deaths in other ways. Yet, no matter what that number is – the CDC doesn’t really have an estimate that I could find – it is less than the nearly 19,000 each year who overdose on prescription drugs. And those names aren’t expressly banned in the MOU.

There is nothing wrong with saying no to names of products that can cause irreparable harm to children – or adults for that matter. All of them. But to single out some legal businesses, in this state anyway, and ban others is the height of hypocrisy.

So let’s review. Weed, tobacco and firearms are bad, alcohol and prescription drugs are fine. At least when it comes to names of and around the remodeled arena. In reality, the abuse of any has awful consequences.

Why draw that line? Why is Captain Morgan just fine, while other, just as dangerous – or less so – products have their names banned?

Could it be purveyors of alcohol and prescription drugs have gigantic marketing budgets and would be willing to spend millions to sponsor the facility? Could it also be we have been conditioned to accept such sponsorship, to not look at the social cost of alcohol and prescription drug abuse while ingesting our sporting events?

Heck, we all know OVG is in the business of making money. That’s why it invested in this project. And it wants to maximize its investment.

But if Have a Heart or Seattle Cannabis wants to pony up the dough to sponsor a doorway or light fixture, shouldn’t they be on the same level playing field as Grey Goose?

Unless hypocrisy is just part of politics. And we all know that can’t be true.


WSU: Jake Luton is returning to the Palouse this week, as the former Idaho quarterback is now Oregon State’s. Theo Lawson knew him at UI and talked with him this week for this story. Theo also has his Pac-12 picks and a transcript of his weekly live chat. … Luke Falk has had his way with Oregon State in the past. Now the Beavers hope to slow him down. … OSU should have its best receiver back from injury this week. … Mike Leach knows a thing or two about slot receiver play. … It’s always good to review concussion protocol. … Stefanie Loe has a feature on safety Jalen Thompson in the Times.

Around the Pac-12, it’s a good day to make the weekend’s picks. But it’s not a good week for the Pac-12 Networks. … Washington hopes it may have another Budda Baker in its secondary. … Oregon faces an NFL darling in Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. … Mississippi is a personal game for one California receiver. … Twin brothers on opposite teams? It happens this week when Stanford meets San Diego State. … Speaking of brothers, Colorado and Northern Colorado each have one of the Lindsay brothers. … Utah has a couple of monsters on the defensive line. … USC’s defense is hobbled going into this year’s matchup with Texas. … The game at Memphis is a homecoming for one UCLA assistant coach. … A loss can keep a quarterback from sleeping. It happened to Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins. … Arizona is young at most every position group, except maybe quarterback.

EWU: Scheduling non-conference home games isn’t easy for the Eagles. Jim Allen has all the particulars in this story. … The Big Sky made it official. The postseason basketball tournament is moving to Boise in 2019. Jim has that story as well. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Northern Colorado hasn’t play Colorado since 1934. … Southern Utah is tough at home. … North Dakota has players from all size of towns. … Nevada, who plays WSU in a week, will start a freshman quarterback against Idaho State. … Supplying energy is a skill for one Montana player. … Portland State's kicker has an interesting backstory. … Northern Arizona is trying to keep its focus.

Idaho: The Vandals’ new tight end has a varied resume. And Peter Harriman has Joe Wysocki’s story.

CCS, NIC: We have roundups of the colleges’ results in volleyball and soccer.

Preps: The cross country season, slowed by the awful air of recent weeks, got going in earnest yesterday. Not only can we pass along a roundup of local meets, but Greg Lee has a story on Central Valley’s boys team and a preview of the season. … Greg and Sam Adams have their Pick 6 for the week and Greg has a column concerning GSL football. … There was volleyball and girls and boys soccer action yesterday.

Chiefs: It’s been a decent preseason for the Portland Winterhawks.

Mariners: The M’s are back to .500 thanks to Mike Zunino’s bat in an 8-1 win over the Rangers. … Robinson Cano was tossed and he’s still upset about it. … Mitch Haniger started the season hot. He’s finishing it the same way. … Shohei Otani. Remember the name. He could be the next Mariner star. But will he be the next star pitcher, or hitter? Or both?

Seahawks: The Hawks have been dogged by the NFL about injury reports. So they have adjusted. … The offensive line didn’t grade out all that well. … Will Thomas Rawls help this week? … If Pete Carroll knew where John Lynch was heading, he may not have told him so much in the past.

Sounders: Jordan Morris didn’t tear his hamstring last weekend. But the strain could keep him out the rest of the season.


• Hypocrisy has always burned my butt. Especially when it’s coming from folks with holier-than-thou attitudes. Like me. Though I try to speak the truth, as I see it, whenever possible. Unless, of course, you ask me “do these pants make me look fat?” Until later …