Why is Syracuse Avoiding the Word Carrier? Experts Say There’s a Rhyme, Reason

October 3, 2019 – Media Mention

Dan Etna was quoted in regarding why Syracuse University has been avoiding mentioning the Carrier name when referring to its iconic arena and has been pulling the Carrier name off of promotional materials and media guides. Even Syracuse officials and ESPN announcers have taken to calling the arena “The Dome.” While Syracuse’s athletic director has taken the position that there is no “rhyme or reason” for the decision to limit the mentions of “Carrier’s” name, and no intent to send a message, experts in marketing and sports law have said this position is “not believable.” As Etna noted, “[c]learly they are getting their message across. It was a concerted effort, there was a total purge. It’s insulting to think they’d say, ‘Oh, we just wanted to save a little space.’” 

In 1979, Carrier entered into what has been described as a “lifetime” agreement to help pay for initial construction costs of the arena. In return for the funds, the building was named the “Carrier Dome.” Etna suspects that Syracuse’s reduction of the use of the name Carrier likely resulted from lawyers reviewing the agreement and Syracuse choosing to comply with the bare minimum requirements to avoid a breach, which may be part of a larger effort to negotiate a more favorable deal with Carrier. Furthermore, Etna noted that in addition to negotiating, he suspects Syracuse is preparing to make multiple legal arguments, which could provide leverage in negotiations or, potentially, in court. Etna said “courts have traditionally protected naming rights ‘in perpetuity’ when individuals have made donations for charitable purposes, as is common with public parks, museums and colleges.” Etna cautioned, however, that it is unclear how courts would look at a business arrangement, but that Syracuse would likely not want to bet entirely on the argument that it shouldn’t have to live up to the ‘in perpetuity’ portion of its agreement. “I don’t think they would want to put all their eggs in one basket.”