Florida Atlantic University's football stadium will not be called GEO Group Stadium after all, according to George Zoley, chairman and CEO of the private prison company that pledged $6 million to FAU in exchange for stadium naming rights.
The original pledge of $500,000 annual gifts to the athletic department over 12 years was made Feb. 19, but instantly set off alarms in the court of public opinion. Protesters cited a judge's ruling condemning conditions in one correctional facility operated by GEO, as well as multimillion-dollar lawsuits GEO had lost over treatment of prisoners.
In the wake of Monday's announcement, a student group calling itself Stop Owlcatraz - so named because FAU athletic teams are nicknamed the Owls - claimed victory. "We won this because we spoke the truth about GEO's human rights abuses," Anole Halper, a member of the group, told The Palm Beach Post. "The truth is really powerful."
"What was originally intended as a gesture of GEO's goodwill to financially assist the university's athletic scholarship program has surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations," stated Zoley, a former FAU board chairman. "We employ many FAU graduates and Boca Raton community members. We take pride in running a well-respected company and are proud of our long-term support of the University."
In lieu of the larger donation, GEO Group reportedly will donate $500,000 this year toward academic scholarships. It is not clear where FAU will turn next for potential stadium sponsorship.