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Barclays Center
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Brooklynites push to rename Barclays Center after Jackie Robinson

Barclays Center has become a central hub for Black Lives Matter protests and rallies in Brooklyn.

By
Collier Sutter
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The Barclays Center has made many headlines this month in New York. Not for hosting pop star concerts or mega sporting events, but as a central hub for the city’s powerful Black Lives Matter protests and rallies.

Now, a proposal to rename the Barclays Center after baseball legend Jackie Robinson is resurfacing. A few Brooklynites are pushing to continue the momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement, and properly honor the Black player.

Park Sloper Arthur Piccolo started the movement back in 2006 to honor Robinson in a more impactful way in Brooklyn.

This month, he told the Brooklyn Paper: “You’re seeing certain individuals being criticized and their statutes rightly removed, and here’s the opportunity to do something symbolic.”

While there are structures across Brooklyn in Jackie Robinson’s name such as the Jackie Robinson Parkway, two Jackie Robinson playgrounds, a statue of him in Coney Island and the Jackie Robinson School in Crown Heights, Piccolo says the tributes aren’t nearly enough in the borough.

Robinson, who spent ten seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956, helped guide the way for other Black athletes in American sports for years to come.

“What an insult, that there’s some strip of highway. That’s how you honor one of the most important people?” says Piccolo, who also runs a non-profit called the Bowling Green Association.

Barclays Center’s plaza already features the Ebbets Field flagpole and a plaque celebrating the Brooklyn Dodgers and Robinson, but it goes without saying that that doesn't hold the same kind of prestige as renaming a large landmark.

“I would not have a clue that there’s a plaque on a flagpole,” adds Piccolo.

When Barclays Center was build nearly a decade ago in 2012, the building was widely derided by the community, as it symbolized displacement for resident housing and signs of gentrification. But since the Black Lives Matter movement erupted after the police killing of George Floyd in May, the Barclays Center—which conveniently joins Flatbush and Atlantic avenues—has become an accidental town square.

For weeks, throngs of demonstrators have turned the plaza into a key gathering place for protest. While protestors raise their voices and hold signage high in the air in the fight against racial injustice, thousands start, pass through or end at the Barclays Center in their daily routes. 

Barclays Center protests
Photograph: Shutterstock

Back in 2007, British bank Barclays agreed to pay nearly $400 million over 20 years for naming rights to the Nets’ 18,000-seat hometown arena. Thus, the bank across the pond has control over Barclays Center's name.

But, the arena’s current owner, billionaire businessman Joseph Tsai, could still incorporate Jackie Robinson into the existing name to get around the contractual obligations. So far, suggestions such as "Jackie Robinson Court at Barclays Center” have come up.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has spoken out in support of the idea to alter Barclays Center's name to include the sporting icon.

"Jackie Robinson was a giant who paved the way for integration in major league baseball and broke down the pervasive racial barriers in mid-century America. He contributed greatly to this borough and this city as a player, and as a private citizen. His example has inspired generations, and the causes he fought for in his time are now being taken up by activists across the country who are tired of racial injustice," Adams said in a statement to NBC New York. "It's fitting that this hero, who spent his major league career here in Brooklyn, should be honored by having his name placed on an important site in the borough." 

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