Sixers CEO Wanted “Wells Fargo Center” in Invisible Ink on Home Court

But the lawyers didn't go for it.


Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil added some fuel to the team’s very-public feud with Wells Fargo — the bank that owns the naming rights to their home arena.

For months now, Sixers executives have refused to say the words “Wells Fargo Center” in press conferences, publish it on the team’s website or print it in any official documentation. Instead they refer to it as “The Center.” And just recently, the team made the words “Wells Fargo Center” very difficult to read on its home court. What used to appear in dark lettering on the floor, is now painted white and virtually blends in.

I interviewed O’Neil on Wednesday and asked why.

“It’s probably the first naming-rights partner in the history of a building that didn’t become a marketing partner of a team that played in the building,” he said, noting that the bank told Sixers management that it wanted to focus on tennis and golf rather than basketball.

“From our end, we’ll live to the letter of the contract from the building, but we’re not going to endorse or support someone who’s pulled their support from us,” he said. “That’s not fair to the other partners that we have.”

But the kicker was O’Neil’s first idea — to put the bank’s name in invisible ink on the home court.

“Our original idea was, for the court logo, to put it in invisible ink — but the lawyers wouldn’t go for it. I figured we could do a little black light in the intros to show it,” said O’Neil. “But the lawyers didn’t go for it, they’re not sure that would live to the letter of the law.”

Citing my recent BizPhilly article that characterized the Sixers actions as “passive-aggressive,” O’Neil offered a correction: “This is aggressive. We’re not very passive-aggressive. We don’t understand that language.”

A Wells Fargo spokesperson did not specifically address the Sixers’ recent actions, but said the bank is committed to remaining a part of the city’s sports scene.

The Philadelphia Flyers play in the same building and use the bank’s name.

When asked if there is any bad blood between the two organizations due to a negotiation session gone wrong, O’Neil said it’s “nothing personal. It’s business.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s not having fun with it. “This one has become enjoyable for us,” he said.

Expect this to last a while, as Wells Fargo has the arena’s naming rights until 2024.

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