Allstate Returns to the Lower Ninth Ward

Allstate Insurance Company, the corporate sponsor for the 2013 Sugar Bowl, graced the Lower Ninth Ward with its presence once again on Wednesday, January 2nd.

According to a WDSU News report, fans and players from the Allstate Sugar Bowl “met up to clean the blighted and overgrown lots in the Lower Ninth Ward.”

When I was here two years ago, Allstate sent (upwards of 500) actual company employees along with fans and players to the Lower Ninth for a day of clean up and festivities in honor of the Sugar Bowl. I remember a marching band, a mobile stereo, a speaker’s podium, matching shirts and plenty of back patting.

While the Sugar Bowl volunteers undoubtedly had the Lower Ninth Ward in their hearts (as WDSU asserts), it’s hard to ignore the Allstate logos peppered throughout their gear and warm clothing.

As you may know, Allstate has had a contentious relationship with the Lower Ninth Ward, especially after the corporation fraudulently denied claims from Gulf Coast residents whose homes were destroyed in Katrina’s aftermath. Since Katrina, Allstate has been involved with numerous lawsuits, and in some cases fined millions of dollars, regarding arbitrary policies and illegal refusals during the claims process.

With a broader context in mind, is the Allstate Sugar Bowl “Day of Service” merely a way to repair a damaged image in the eyes of New Orleans (and Lower Ninth) residents? With the amount of money it takes to send all of these volunteers to the Lower Ninth each year, (not to mention the matching shirts, entertainment and media coverage), all for half a day of trash clean-up, it would appear as though the insurance company is more interested in a photo-op “quick fix” than a serious commitment to repairing the damage it has done in this community.