Barclays Deal Sparks Slavery Complaints

A New York assemblyman who supports the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn has denounced the naming rights deal between U.K. bank Barclays and the New Jersey Nets new basketball arena, saying the bank has ties to slavery.

The arena project has been controversial in the community, but few predicted it would include the $400 million, 20-year naming rights deal that would name the 18,000-capacity basketball arena The Barclays Center.

Some opposing the deal say the bank had ties to the slave trade in the 18th century, the New York Times reported. They also say the bank has more recently supported South Africa’s apartheid regime. A spokesman contacted by the paper denied both claims.

"Of all of the companies in the world to pursue a naming rights agreement, Barclays is inappropriate to be in a borough which has one of the largest populations of African descent in this countries," said Hakeen Jeffries, a NY state assemblyman, in The Brooklyn Paper, a weekly publication that is critical of the Atlantic Yards project.

Jeffries, who is black, said he would discuss the agreement with Forest City Ratner officials, which is the developer of the Atlantic Yards project.

"They should consider terminating the agreement or having Barclays compensate the community for the wrongs of the slave trade," Jeffries said, according to the Times.

Former assemblyman Roger Green has reportedly said the naming rights deal doesn’t contribute enough for the city, the paper said.

"At least as a point of negotiation, we should see far more," Green said. "If we were to exclude all the corporations that participated in the slave trade, there would only be a handful of companies."

Peter Truell, a spokesman for Barclays, said, "Claims that Barclays was founded on the profits of slavery are untrue." He also said Barclays withdrew from South Africa six years before the end of apartheid, the paper reported.

"Indeed, David Barclay, who was a partner in one of the primary Quaker banks in the 1770 that eventually merged to form Barclays, was opposed to slavery," Truell said.

In an 1801 book titled "An Account of the Emancipation of the Slaves of Unity Valley Pen, in Jamaica," David Barclay wrote: "Having been a slave owner, and much dissatisfied in being so, I determined to try the experiment of liberating my slaves; firmly convinced, that the retaining of my fellow creatures in bondage was not only irreconcilable with the precepts of Christianity, but subversive of the rights of human nature."