German insurance and financial services giant Allianz is in negotiations with the New York Giants and Jets to purchase the naming rights to the new Meadowlands stadium that is scheduled to open in 2010. But, while naming deals are old hat these days, the teams are facing a bit of a moral dilemma in deciding whether to plaster the name of a company that was involved in insuring Nazi concentration camps on the front of their new digs.
It’s an issue that should at least be raised anywhere, but is particularly touchy in New York, which contains the largest Jewish community in the world outside of Israel. While Allianz has certainly made attempts to atone for its past transgressions (which included refusing to pay out life insurance policies to Jews and redirecting the money to Nazis), this might not be the best PR decision:
The NEW YORK TIMES’ Richard Sandomir has the story:
Allianz insured facilities and personnel at concentration camps like Auschwitz and Dachau. Kurt Schmitt, its chief executive in the 1930s, served as Hitler’s second economics minister and can be seen in a photograph from a rally wearing an SS-Oberführer’s uniform and delivering the Nazi salute with Hitler standing in front of him.
A rep for the Holocaust Survivor community has his reservations:
“There must be sensitivity to the psychological impact this would have,” said Elan Steinberg, a vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. “Survivors are still alive. It would not be appropriate to affix the Allianz name to a stadium name in an area where a lot of survivors still living.”
Allianz later renounced these activities, but apparently wasn’t all that interested in volunteering financial assistant to those who were wronged:
The teams can say Allianz participated in two major efforts that began in the 1990s to compensate slave and forced laborers as well as insurance policy holders — but only after pressure from the American government, state insurance regulators and Jewish groups, and class-action suits filed in federal court.
Some might think this is another example of American over-sensitivity, given that more than 60 years have passed and Allianz is a global corporation with a presence in 70 countries. But it’s hard to argue that the company didn’t benefit greatly from the business it did with the Third Reich. Allianz currently has naming rights to a soccer stadium in its home city of Munich (pictured above), which is home to the Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich soccer clubs, and was one of the sites used for the 2006 World Cup.
If the Giants and Jets are worried about what will happen if the deal falls through, I’m pretty sure these folks are still looking for a naming deal.