Thursday, September 11, 2008

Welcome to Colonel Klink Stadium!

"Schultz, close the gates! The war is back on!"

(Update... Under intense public pressure, discussions with Allianz have been terminated.)

The Nazis are trying to buy the name rights to the new Giants/Jets stadium! Bet you didn't even know the Nazis were still a functional organization, much less interested in sports marketing opportunities. Well, turns out it might be something of an exaggeration, but perhaps not as much as it appears at first glance.

The New York Daily news is reporting that German-based international insurance giant Allianz is on the short-list of companies vying to pay $20-30 million for the right to slap their logo on the $1.3 billion dollar stadium set to start hosting games in 2010. But Allianz is catching flak for its connections to the Nazis and their activities before, during and after the war.

More after the break:

Allianz Arena, a soccer stadium in Munich

Now, it would be fairly understandable if you rolled your eyes at the notion of holding a modern international corporation responsible for the admittedly heinous actions of a lunatic-led nation over six decades ago. I certainly did. After all, every company in Germany had to either close its doors or cooperate with the Nazis. But it turns out that Allianz has much closer ties to the Nazi leadership and the most atrocious elements of the Third Reich than that of just an average German company in the 1930s and '40s.

New York Times sports columnist Richard Sandomir lays out a fairly damning case against Allianz as a mere bystander
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-Oberf├╝hrer’s uniform and delivering the Nazi salute with Hitler standing in front of him.
They also terminated or refused to pay off on life insurance policies held by German Jews (common among German insurance companies in accordance with anti-Semitic policies) and insured the Nazis against loss of seized Jewish valuables.

In their favor is the fact that nobody currently involved in the company had anything to do with those decisions. Over the years, especially in the 1990s, Allianz has made attempts to make up for their checkered past, but critics point out that those efforts were only made after American pressure was put on them and only after seeking to indemnify themselves from future action.

It seems unlikely that the deal will be able to overcome the public-relations hurdles. New York has an active and influential Jewish community including a relatively large population of holocaust survivors and their families. More directly, the Giants team is half-owned by the Tisch family, a Jewish family with a history of supporting Jewish causes. It seems doubtful that they would tolerate their team playing under the Allianz banner.

So long as any other suitor can offer any comparable compensation, don't look to see an Allianz Stadium in the Meadowlands anytime soon.

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