The Barclays Center has made many headlines recently, as it’s served as a hub for the city’s Black Lives Matter protests. And some locals hope to keep this momentum going and are pushing for the arena to be renamed for Brooklyn Dodgers player Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player. Arthur Piccolo of Park Slope actually began the effort back in 2006, but recently revived it, telling the Brooklyn Paper, “You’re seeing certain individuals being criticized and their statutes rightly removed, and here’s the opportunity to do something symbolic.”
Jackie Robinson spent 10 years with the Dodgers, from 1947 to 1957. For the first few years, he and his wife Rachel lived in a two-story home at 5224 Tilden Avenue in East Flatbush, right near Ebbets Field. In 1976, this house was named a National Historic Landmark. Two playgrounds have been named for him, as has the Jackie Robinson Parkway and the Jackie Robinson School in Crown Heights. There is also a statue of him in Coney Island and a flagpole in the plaza of the Barclays Center–the Ebbets Field flagpole–that bears a plaque at its base honoring the Robinson and the Dodgers. But Piccolo feels that Robinson “has never been adequately honored anywhere, not even at his home.”
Even after his baseball career, Robinson continued to break barriers. From 1957 to 1964, he was Vice President of Chock full o’Nuts, becoming the first African American officer of a national corporation. He was also a prominent Civil Rights leader. “He spent his life at the forefront. While he was in the military, before Rosa Parks, he refused to sit at the back of the bus,” explained Piccolo to the Brooklyn Paper.
With all this in mind, Piccolo believes the Barclays Center is the perfect place to honor Robinson’s legacy, considering how the Fort Greene locale has become symbolic of the Black Lives Matter movement in New York City. Piccolo first came up with the idea in 2006, before developer Bruce Ratner–who bought the Nets for $300 million and subsequently built the $4.9 million Barclays Center as their new home–sold the naming rights to Barclays for just over $200 million.
In a June 4 op-ed on Bklyner, journalist Norman Oder, who runs the blog Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report, revived Piccolo’s call. “What if there’d been enough wisdom and pressure for the Brooklyn arena to be named ‘The Jackie Robinson Center, Presented by Barclays’ or even ‘The Barclays Center: Honoring Jackie Robinson?’ he wrote. “Today, that Dodgers connection and Ebbets Field flagpole clearly don’t spark reverence,” he added, noting that “far more know that hip-hop supernova Jay-Z served as a huge symbol of the Barclays Center and the Nets.”
.@barclayscenter should be renamed the Jackie Robinson Arena! It is travesty that Robinson is not remembered more in Brooklyn. He is one of the most influential Americans of the 20th Century and he only played for the Brooklyn Dodgers! https://t.co/iL4cLD85Zn
— Assemblymember Robert Carroll (@Bobby4Brooklyn) June 29, 2020
Assemblymember Robert Carroll, whose district covers Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, just a bit south of the Barclays Center, re-Tweeted Oder on June 29th, saying that “It is travesty that Robinson is not remembered more in Brooklyn.” He then added:
The @BrooklynNets should changer their name to the Brooklyn Robinsons or Brooklyn Robins in honor of Brooklyn Dodger great and the first African American to play in the @MLB – Jackie Robinson. The Nets is a terrible name and nothing to do with Brooklyn. What day you @NBA?
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also Tweeted his support, saying “100%. The center of sports in #Brooklyn should be renamed to recognize one of the largest figures in sports history. Let’s make this a reality!”
As the Brooklyn Paper explains, the time could also be ripe for renaming for another reason. Barclays’ naming deal goes through 2032, but as they have no ATMs at the arena and no banks in the United States, they started thinking last year of getting out of the deal early.
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Neighborhoods : Fort Greene