“Norms,” Ralph Nader reminded us earlier this year, “in a society or culture, are the accepted ways of behavior we grow up observing and learning in our everyday lives. . . . In our country, voluntarily recognized fundamental norms have been breaking down. The chief impetus for this collapse is the ascending supremacy of commercial power over civic values. . . . Compared to seventy years ago, there are almost no commercial-free zones anymore.”
It is now a norm for the naming rights of Paul Brown Stadium (PBS) to be sold to Paycor. That’s the norm around most of the NFL (with the exception of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and Chicago’s Soldier Field); and it is even the norm on many of our public university campuses (for example, Fifth Third Arena at the University of Cincinnati).
If not for Paul Brown, there would be no Cincinnati Bengals, but it is now the norm to not even cringe a little about Mike Brown valuing easy cash more than a stadium name honoring his father. Perhaps Mike Brown believes that his father would be proud of him for the shrewd deal he cut with Hamilton County.
Hamilton County owns the stadium, but the clever Brown family will garner the majority of the money from the Paycor deal. It’s been reported that the Brown family will get the first $60.5 million that comes from the deal, and then 70% of the remaining revenue, with the other 30% going to Hamilton County.
Hamilton County residents are accustomed to getting the short end of the stick. And most Bengal fans will likely only be upset if a chunk of that naming-rights money does not go to a long-term contract for Joe Burrow, joking about calling it Paycor/Burrow Stadium to keep it PBS.
Since selling naming rights on properties owned by the public is now a U.S. norm, why is it that we taxpayers have received no money for providing the naming rights of Cross County Highway to the Republican Party?
On December 16, 1992, an all-Republican Board of County Commissioners, proposed renaming Cross County Highway to Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway, and the board officially renamed the highway on March 17, 1993. On October 28, 1997, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) took over a significant portion of the highway, and ODOT District 8 intended to replace Ronald Reagan with the 126 state route shield on all signage; however, the Republican ODOT director overruled the district office.
Ronald Reagan is a big part of the Republican brand, but his name and thus the brand was severely tarnished in the late 1980s by the Reagan Administration Iran-Contra scandal. And so naming a highway after Reagan was a good marketing move by Republicans to help Ohio voters forget about one of the most treasonous acts by a president in U.S. history.
In January 1984, Iran had been declared by the U.S. government as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism,” but between August 1985 and October 1986, Reagan violated this declaration by secretly approving the sale to Iran of over 2000 TOW anti-tank missiles, 18 Hawk surface-to-air missiles, and spare parts; and Reagan illegally funding the terrorist Contras in Nicaragua. According to the Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, the belief that Reagan was ignorant of these illegal arms sales is a delusional one.
So, Reagan illegally sold arms to a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” that had held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days (until Reagan was sworn in as president in January 1981); and not only do we Hamilton County residents have no choice but to drive on a highway with Reagan’s name on it, we have received no money in this naming-deal giveaway.
In an earlier era with far different norms, we would simply go back to calling it Cross County Highway, or replace Reagan’s name with a more honorable and less polarizing person—maybe even an Ohio native. But in today’s norms, everything has cash value.
So, at least let’s get some taxpayer compensation for Cross County Highway, and let’s get it from a less polarizing brand. How about Skyline Cross County Highway? Graeter’s Cross County Highway? Aglamesis Cross County Highway?
Whatever money we can get from one of these local companies, it is more than we are getting from the Republicans. And for Ohioans who are not fond of treason, those local business names will be far less painful to say than the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway.
Then let’s apologize to young people for leaving them a world with almost no commercial-free zones.