Origins: At the beginning of the 2004 baseball season, the San Diego Padres moved out of Qualcomm Stadium (formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium and
As has been done with many other public structures, a program was initiated at PETCO Park to raise revenue by allowing people to purchase personalized bricks inscribed with messages of their choosing. The personalized bricks are put on permanent display in the stadium's Palm Court Plaza.
The Ballpark Brick Program at PETCO Park presented an interesting opportunity for the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who had written letters to Padres executives asking them to cancel the naming rights agreement. PETA has long been urging consumers to boycott the PETCO chain on the grounds that numerous complaints have reported PETCO stores as all too often being the site of sick, dying, and mistreated animals:
PETA is sending monthly casualty reports to PETCO officials, citing dozens of eyewitness accounts of sick and dying animals at PETCO stores across the country. During March  alone, PETA received
PETA has also filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that PETCO failed to disclose animal deaths, customer complaints, and legal actions filed against the company (including lawsuits over cruelty to animals in San Francisco and Utah) to its stockholders. And PETA has filed a shareholder resolution calling on PETCO to end its sales of animals.
What to do when you can't get your message in through the front door? As we've seen in other examples, one way to sneak subversive messages into unlikely settings is through the backdoor method of acrostics, message spelled out by the initial letters of a series of words. And again, that's exactly what PETA did, purchasing a brick with the inscription: "Break Open Your Cold Ones! Toast The Padres! Enjoy This Championship Organization!":
Read as an acrostic, these sentences form a decidedly less friendly message:
According to Ms. Griffin, PETA's aim is to see PETCO give up the sale of live animals altogether, a product line which she says accounts for only 5% of PETCO's business. (PETCO officials maintain that they have investigated some of the reports submitted by PETA, and that most of them are "mischaracterizations.")
ESPN reported that PETCO wasn't expressing any public consternation over PETA's hidden message:
"If you walked by and read their message, you wouldn't know it had anything to do with PETA," said Don Cowan, PETCO's director of communications.
PETA said the Marlins should explore alternatives, such as "artist-designed aquariums full of beautiful blown-glass animals," "high-definition plasma screens showing underwater footage of sea animals," and even "robotic fish that can 'swim' through water."
"I hope to hear that you have decided to leave fish in the ocean where they belong," Reiman wrote.
PETA said the hidden message is an effort to draw attention to the plight of fish, who the group says feel pain and suffer when they're caught on a hook or in a net.
On its website, the organization said, "Marlins are a species of fish. And they, like all fish, are much more beautiful alive and swimming in the ocean than on a menu. Fish (including marlins) feel pain, and they suffer when they're caught on a hook or in a net and dragged into an environment in which they can't breathe. It's much better to choose cruelty-free activities instead — like, say, watching a baseball game."
| "Boycott PETCO" Message Sneaks Into Padres Ballpark |
| What's Wrong with PETCO? |
| PETA Punks the Miami Marlins |
Last updated: 6 April 2012
Brioso, Cesar. "PETA Takes Swipe at Petco in New Stadium." USA Today. 18 April 2004. Rovell, Darren. "Secret Message Makes It into New Park." ESPN.com. 16 April 2004. AOL News. "PETA Protesting Marlins' Plans for Aquariums in Backstop at New Stadium." 14 June 2010. WCVB-TV [Boston]. "PETA Pulls Prank on Miami Marlins." 5 April 2012.