WASHINGTON — Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate, on April 5 condemned a plan by the University of Southern California to rename the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – a historic World War I memorial – for United Airlines in exchange for a $69 million gift.
Gabbard, who learned of the renaming during a trip to Los Angeles last week, called on national veterans’ groups to join members of their local chapters who have opposed USC’s plan to rebrand the 96-year-old public stadium as the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s crazy that we would even have to have this discussion,” Gabbard said. “As we talk about the necessity to put people ahead of profits, a proposal like this would disrespect and dishonor those who put their lives on the line for our country. I take serious offense at such a proposal.”
Gabbard, who currently serves as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard and deployed twice to the Middle East, applauded how Los Angeles and California representatives of veterans’ groups have mobilized to fight the name change of a venue that was dedicated to those who served in the “Great War” when it opened in 1923.
She called on the national headquarters of those groups to “elevate to the national stage the fight against the blatant commercialization” of the L.A. Coliseum, which in 1968 was rededicated to all the country’s World War I veterans.
Gabbard also urged USC and United Airlines to consider modifying their agreement, perhaps naming the field for the Chicago-based airline rather than the structure itself. That scenario is “one where everyone wins — United Airlines can achieve exposure while honoring those who have served and died,” Gabbard said.
The Coliseum, which is the home field of the USC Trojan football team, is a National Historic Landmark and the only stadium in the world to host two Olympic games, two Super Bowls and one World Series. It is a public structure managed by a politically appointed Coliseum Commission, which signed a long-term lease with USC after the school promised to conduct a $300 million-plus renovation.
To help underwrite the project, USC made the naming rights deal with United but failed to consult with veterans’ groups. The deal is now in question, as those groups and L.A. public leaders have voiced objections.
The Coliseum is recognized by the congressionally mandated U.S. World War I Centennial Commission as on par with Chicago’s Soldier Field, San Francisco’s War Memorial Veterans Building and Opera House, and Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park as one of the most important World War 1 memorials in the country.