Heat to cut ties with bankrupt FTX, rename arena

NBA

Miami-Dade County and the Miami Heat are ending their arena naming rights deal with bankrupt cryptocurrency firm FTX.

The county, which owns the arena, signed a 19-year, $135 million deal for the bayfront Heat homecourt’s name in 2021. After an initial balloon payment of $14 million, FTX was scheduled to make a $5.5 million payment in January.

The arena will still technically be referred to as FTX Arena for Saturday’s game between the Heat and Charlotte Hornets, but signage and the name will soon come down.

“The reports about FTX and its affiliates are extremely disappointing,” the county and team said in a joint statement. “Miami-Dade County and the Miami HEAT are immediately taking action to terminate our business relationships with FTX. We will be working together to find a new naming rights partner for the arena.”

FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday after a steep fall in crypto prices left the company unable to cover accounts as customers rushed to withdraw funds.

The deal in Miami was one of a number of sports marketing deals FTX had signed over the past few years, including sponsorship deals with the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards. Among top athletes who had FTX deals included Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and tennis star Naomi Osaka.

FTX also entered into a deal with Mercedes for Formula One racing and a sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball, whose umpires wear the company’s logo. Earlier Friday, Mercedes said it would immediately remove FTX logos from its Formula One cars.

The Heat’s home was known as American Airlines Arena from its opening in 1999 until last season.

The team was to receive $2 million a year as part of the naming rights deal with FTX. Most of the rest — roughly $90 million over the lifetime of the agreement — was to be paid to the county, the vast majority of it earmarked toward fighting gun violence and poverty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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