At the risk of borrowing too profoundly from Andy Rooney’s stylistics: it used to be that a team could name a stadium after a public figure or the team playing in the stadium and be done with it. (Mr. Rooney would follow this by complaining that they make juice too strong these days, but I’ve opted not to borrow that)
Anyway, I know, this dates me, but I miss those days, if only because it was one less instance of some corporation getting all in my face on some branding shit. The Nets and Devils played in Brendan Byrne Arena when I was a kid, which was named after the eminently unremarkable Governor Brendan Byrne; I was born during the tail end of his porky tenure as the state’s chief executive.
Byrne’s still around, and did what can only be described as Jersey political shtick stand-up at the Democratic National Convention; the arena that bore his name has gone through several different corporate sponsors since, and is currently a severely brand-infected assaultively unrelenting advertising-delivery module — in which basketball is still played, sometimes — sponsored by Izod. (I wrote about going to a Nets game there last year, in what I believe still stands as the longest post in CSTB history)
Across a footbridge over NJ120 sits the squat form of Giants Stadium, which has always been known as Giants Stadium. Never Windmill Hot Dogs Stadium, never Ray Catena Motors Stadium, never Any Corporate Entity Stadium. (Certainly never Jets Stadium, either, although it’s hard to miss the transition it undergoes when the green dudes are at home) Of course, like all currently existing arenas, Giants Stadium must be torn down and replaced with something new. As a Jersey native and Giants fan, I won’t mourn it — watching a game there is, for the most part, like sitting in a frozen urinal, albeit one that serves cruelly expensive beers — but neither will I mourn the fact that the new stadium will not be sponsored by German insurance giant Allianz. Earlier this week, stories started to emerge about Allianz agreeing to a record sponsorship deal for the stadium. Where it got complicated…well, here are two paragraphs from Maura McDermott’s coverage in the Newark Star-Ledger:
The naming rights deal with Allianz would put $25 million to $30 million a year in the teams’ pockets for the next 10 to 20 years, said two people close to the negotiations who requested anonymity because the talks are confidential.
Allianz also had strong ties to the Nazis during World War II, providing insurance to death camps such as Auschwitz and denying payments to Jewish clients, instead allowing the German government to collect the funds.
So, yeah, there’s a sense in which one could wonder whether the decision to pursue this deal was kind of, you know, super-duper idiotic and tone deaf. At least one sense. So, guess what happened today? The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir reports:
Allianz, the German-based insurance and financial services company which had ties to Hitler™s Third Reich before and during World War II, has dropped out of negotiations to acquire the naming rights to the $1.6 billion stadium that is being built by the Jets and Giants in New Jersey.
Mark Lamping, the president of the joint venture the teams created to build the stadium, said in a statement: œThe New Meadowlands Stadium LLC is no longer in discussions with Allianz for a naming rights partnership. 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.
In recent days, the possibility of an Allianz Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., has aroused some opposition by fans, Holocaust survivors and their families and Jewish groups. But other organizations said Allianz had done enough to address its history.
The Giants and Jets deserve a certain amount of credit for privately financing the stadium — well, with the help of a $300 million grant from the NFL — which I guess gives them the right to take money from whomever they choose, sponsor-wise. And Allianz’s efforts, which sort of definitionally can never be quite sufficient for complicity with the Nazis, also deserve some credit, I suppose. But it’s a relief to know that people sitting in traffic won’t need to have the word “Allianz” staring back at them. If only for spelling’s sake. But, you know, not only for that reason.