I’m still processing the news that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s multi-billion dollar business, Pilot Flying J, was raided Monday by FBI and IRS agents who were searching for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Just when I thought that we had turned the corner and finally had an owner who was not only an astute business man, but moreover, an engaged leader, we find that an “ongoing investigation” by the FBI and IRS will be a black cloud over our cherished franchise for months to come.
What seemed to be a promising rebirth for our franchise may become nothing but another punch line. Can you image the national political cartoons? Depictions of prison bars superimposed over the owner’s louge?
I remember as a little boy my dad took me to Hiram College to watch the Cleveland Browns practice. I stood in awe as the great Jim Brown trotted onto the practice field. He was my first real life hero.
Since the glory days of the Jim Brown era, we have endured countless bad draft choices, lousy coaches, “The Fumble,” “The Drive,” “The Interception,” and one losing season after another.
This new situation is not going to go away quickly or easily. Jimmy Haslam is meeting around the clock with his criminal lawyers and public relations team at a time when he should be huddling with coaches and scouts in preparation of the 2013 NFL draft on April 25.
I realize that Haslam is innocent until proven guilty. However, I can’t help but consider the consequences if he is found guilty. The upheaval of the team’s ownership would be disruptive to say the least.
I don’t believe the NFL has ever encountered a similar set of circumstances, and quite frankly I’m surprised the NFL was unaware of this potential problem when they approved the Browns’ sale last summer for more than $1 billion to the man from Tennessee.
Suffice it to say that Haslam was dead wrong when he thought things couldn’t get worse than a 5-11 season.
Sports fans, what do you think?