Since Wednesday, I’ve been trying to reconcile why the operator of the new football stadium being built for the New York Giants and Jets would entertain selling naming rights to an international surety that had insured the Nazi concentration camps.
Forget the fact that I have no idea what it means for Auschwitz to be protected against lawsuits—I doubt they were worried about being sued by an emaciated Jew who fell on handrail-less stairs and shattered a hip—it’s just inconceivable that sports teams with New York in their names would play in the house the Nazis built. Granted, being an anti-Semite does not preclude one’s name from appearing on a major regional facility—Lindbergh Field in San Diego or Ford Field in Detroit, for example—but this is Jersey.
As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of protest from Jewish organizations and Holocaust survivors, and today the New Meadowlands Stadium said Allianz, once the front-runner to spend $30 million a year for the rights, was now out of the running:
“We are continuing discussions with other potential partners for the new stadium and look forward to the summer 2010 opening of this new icon for our region,” the statement said.
Allianz spokesman Peter Lefkin confirmed that talks were off.
Its officials contended that the firm had atoned for its former support of the Third Reich by supporting reparations programs and working to become a responsible company. Allianz said it should no longer be held accountable in 2008 for the company’s record during World War II.
Steven Korenblat, an attorney who represented Citigroup in its naming rights deal for the New York Mets’ new stadium, noted that German companies such as Daimler-Benz and Deutsche Bank that had connections to the Third Reich have higher profiles in the U.S. than Allianz.
“I don’t think this is a made-up controversy,” Korenblat said, referring to Allianz negotiations. “For those who have strong feelings about it, it’s genuine. My view is that we should continue to remember the past and continue to speak the truth, but at the same time we should allow Germany and its corporate citizens to move forward.”