Recently the German insurance giant Allianz held talks with New York Giants and Jets as possibly securing naming rights for the new football stadium the teams will inhabit. Allianz already is the title sponsor for a massive soccer stadium in Munich, home of the famed Bayern Munich club and also one of the major stadia used for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The talks between Allianz and the Giants/Jets broke down when a chorus of Holocaust survivors and New York Jews criticized the talks due to Allianz’s history with the Nazi party in the 1930s and ’40s.
An interest in the company history is a valid critique when searing for a company for which the teams and stadium will be associated. The Houston Astros changed the name of their baseball stadium from Enron Field to Minute Maid Park after the scandals that rocked Enron. But this is different. I cannot claim that a past that includes insuring both personnel and facilities at Auschwitz and Dachau is a clean one or that the company does not deserve to be questioned along those lines. But I do think it’s time for people to move on.
Allianz has had no affiliation with the Nazi party since the end of World War II. As with many German companies that were founded before the Nazi regime, Allianz had few options when it came to their war time activities. This does not excuse what happened but it can at least be understood to a certain degree. It’s not unlike those who helped gather Japanese-Americans and took them to internment camps in this country during the same time period. Should those train companies or private individuals who helped in that process be harassed and denied the rights of others today? Or what about oil companies who helped exterminate or relocate Native Americans in Texas, Oklahoma and other places?
Perhaps a more pertinent example is Mercedes-Benz. Here is a picture of Adolf Hitler. Notice anything familiar about the hood ornament? Or what about this photo? Or this plant that makes the cars? Is it important in our society today that Mercedes-Benz once drove Hitler around? Apparently not.
Even Ford is an example where we look the other way. Here is the Ford Center in Oklahoma City where the Thunder (don’t even get me started) will play this season. Think the people of Oklahoma had any issue with the Ford brand being linked to their arena? Of course not. They don’t even think about the fact that Henry Ford was one of the worst anti-semites of his, or any, day.
All of this is to say that it’s a shame that Allianz can’t even compete in this country because of events that took place seventy years ago or more. I realize the Jewish lobby is quite strong, especially in New York, and I do understand their reservations. But at what point do we allow ourselves to move on in areas that are only tangentially related?