Call it the stadium that got its name by way of the new Jim Crow.
Scores of football players, many of them black, will be making money for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., by catching passes, making tackles, and scrambling into the end zone.
And from the looks of things, those FAU Owls may wind up playing in a stadium named for a company that built its wealth not by capitalizing on the physicality of black people, but on their mistakes.
The university, it seems, is bound and determined to sell naming rights to its new stadium to GEO Group – the nation’s second-largest private prison corporation. One of the juvenile detention facilities GEO operated in Mississippi, Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, was so badly run that, according to National Public Radio, a federal judge wrote that it allowed “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”
GEO officials told NPR that the abuses occurred before it took over in late 2010. Federal officials, however, dispute that.
But in spite of that dubiousness GEO’s chairman, who has two degrees from FAU, is ponying up $6 million for the right to emblazon his company’s name on the stadium. As such, the move has sparked protests from students and community leaders, who are calling the stadium “Owlcatraz.”
Yet the school’s president, Mary Jane Saunders, doesn’t appear to be budging. She even went as far as to say that the gift was given with love.
Yeah, like the love GEO gave to the youths at Walnut Grove.
Still, it was only a matter of time before something like this would happen; before a private prison enriched by the mass incarceration of black people, and black males in particular, over minor drug crimes, would try to attach its notoriety to something more prestigious than the rural, mostly-white towns whose economies they have built.
This is maddening on a number of levels.
One is the fact that around 17 percent of FAU’s 30,000 students are black. To name a stadium after a corporation that, besides apparently subjecting juveniles to abusive conditions in one of its facilities, also benefits from incarcerating scores of black people, is insensitive and insulting.
Another is that few of the black people it profits off of will ever get a chance to attend that university, or any university, for that matter, even if they’ve completed their sentences and meet the entrance requirements.
That’s because it’s extremely difficult for felons to get financial assistance for school, and even tougher for them to be admitted – not to mention the fact that it’s next to impossible for them to get jobs or housing.
Many wind up back in prison – and further fattening the pockets of private prison corporations like GEO.
Then there’s this: Florida spends nearly $3 billion a year on its corrections system. Three of the 59 facilities that GEO operates in the U.S. are in Florida.
That’s money that could be used to pay teachers, or provide the services needed to rebuild communities and create the kind of social and economic stability that might deter people from committing crimes.
That money could also be used to support universities like FAU so that its president won’t be so desperate as to make excuses for accepting money from a corporation that lobbies for state money that it could be using.
But it isn’t.
I hope the protests continue. Because it’s one thing to name a stadium after a company that promises banking or financial services, or office products, or food. They profit off meeting people’s needs.
But it’s another to name a stadium after a corporation that profits by exploiting people’s mistakes – especially the mistakes of a disproportionate number of black males.
Black males who, if they aren’t lucky enough to be playing football in FAU’s new stadium, are certainly paying to have it named after their jailers.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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