Banner showing FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium, Nov. 16, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

UC Berkeley confirmed that it suspended its football stadium naming rights deal with crypto exchange FTX, which filed for bankruptcy last week and is being probed by federal authorities. 

Photos shared on social media this week appeared to show workers scrubbing off an FTX logo from the turf on California Memorial Stadium, formally renamed FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium in August 2021. 

The FTX logo still appeared outside Memorial Stadium as of Wednesday and on the Cal Athletics’ website as of Friday.

“LEARFIELD’s Cal Bears Sports Properties, working in collaboration with Cal Athletics, has suspended the FTX naming rights sponsorship with Cal Athletics,” Cal Athletics spokesperson Jonathan Okanes said in an email Wednesday.

The 10-year, $17.5 million field naming deal, brokered by sports marketing firm Learfield, was marketed as the “first in collegiate history paid 100% in crypto.” 

But it’s unclear how much money Cal Athletics has received from the deal, if it was paid in crypto or U.S. dollars, and whether the Bahamas-based crypto exchange coughed up money to buy out of the deal. Okanes declined to answer any of Berkeleyside’s questions. “Our statement is our only response,” he wrote.

Also unknown is what will become of any other agreements FTX made last year.

In the August 2021 statement announcing FTX’s partnership with Cal Athletics, Cal Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said the deal was part of Cal Athletics’ plan to diversify revenue streams and would extend “well beyond” just field naming rights. The agreement, Knowlton said, included commitments” to Cal Athletics’ Cameron Institute, Cal Veterans, and “students in need here in Berkeley.” 

At the time, UC Berkeley alum Sina Nader, FTX’s Chief Operating Officer, said FTX pledged an additional $200,000 to “help fight homelessness in Berkeley and to support organizations that help underrepresented student groups at UC Berkeley.” Nader announced in a Nov. 12 tweet that he had resigned from his role as head of partnerships for FTX US.

The Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat have also paused relations with the crypto exchange.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 9 that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission were investigating FTX for fraud and its handling of customer funds.

Two days later, on Nov. 11, founder Sam Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO, handing the position over to John J. Ray III, who previously oversaw the $23 billion bankruptcy of energy firm Enron. FTX filed for Chapter 11 “reorganization” bankruptcy in the U.S., indicating that it intends to restructure and keep the business alive. 

Ray said in a Thursday court filing that he had never seen “such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information.”

“From compromised systems integrity and faulty regulatory oversight abroad, to the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals, this situation is unprecedented,” Ray said in the filing.

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...