N.Y. football teams end talks with company with Nazi ties over naming rights
Jewish fans expressed outrage at Giants and Jets negotiations with firm that gave insurance to Auschwitz.
The New York Giants and New York Jets ended naming-rights talks with a German insurance company that once had ties to the Nazis.
Allianz had been looking to buy naming rights to the stadium being built in northern New Jersey for the two National Football League franchises.
The move was criticized by Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors. The company says it has atoned for its history and should not be judged by its World War II record.
Allianz officials confirmed that talks have ended. Discussions are continuing with other potential partners for naming rights.
"The New York Giants and the New York Jets heard the concerns of their fans and others and made the right decision to end negotiations with Allianz for the naming rights of their new stadium," Anti-Defamation League chief Abe Foxman said on Friday.
"The decision shows sensitivity to the fact that the greater New York area is home to a large number of Holocaust survivors and their families and World War II veterans, who live with the painful memories of that time."
Jewish football fans in New York were furious over local media reports this week that the Jets and Giants were close to granting naming rights for their new stadium to Allianz, a German company that maintained intimate ties with the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.
According to Tuesday's New York Times, the teams negotiated with Allianz, a corporation based in Munich that had insured equipment and personnel at various concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau. An Allianz executive, Kurt Schmitt, was also appointed as Adolf Hitler's economic minister.
Reports in New York indicate that Allianz was prepared to pay the teams upwards of $20 to $30 million per year for the naming rights to the brand new football stadium that the clubs are jointly building in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Jets and Giants officials had to wage a delicate public relations campaign to temper the backlash, particularly since a considerable portion of the teams' fan base is Jewish. This week, the back page of the mass circulation tabloid New York Daily News showed a picture of the owners of the football team with the headline "SHAMING RIGHTS" superimposed on the image.
"I am very upset," Earnest Michel, a Holocaust survivor, told the Daily News on Wednesday. "I would find the connection of naming the stadium in the name of a German insurance company a very, very serious act and that we as survivors would take exception to."
"It would be an insult," Foxman told the Daily News. "It's putting [the Allianz] name in lights for generations to come."
Allianz sought to defuse the criticism by pointing to the millions of dollars in restitution payments it has made to Holocaust survivors. The company says it has sought to redress the crimes it committed during the rule of the Third Reich, and the owners of the Jets and Giants reportedly vetted the firm and came away satisfied with its sincerity in making amends.
The Daily News quoted one prominent U.S. rabbi as supporting the deal, saying it is time to let bygones be bygones despite the raw sensitivity of the issue.
"I have found Allianz to be receptive, to be sensitive and a friend of the Jewish people today," Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum of the North American Board of Rabbis said. "We need not live in the past."