The New England Patriots may have just released a budding superstar-turned-alleged murderer, but Forbes’ Mike Ozanian feels that the Cleveland Browns are a bigger issue for the NFL given their recent run of misfortune off of the field. This one, per Ozanian, starts at the top of the food chain.
“The Browns should be one of football’s flagship small-market franchises,” writes Ozanian. “But the Browns now appear on the verge of imploding. Haslam’s Pilot Flying J, his source of wealth, is being investigated by the FBI for defrauding customers. Three of the truck stop company’s employees have entered guilty pleas. And credit ratings for Pilot Flying J have been put on negative watch for possible downgrade by both Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s.”
The Forbes column touches on the Browns players who joined the Browns after Haslam bought the team and have already gotten in trouble with the law. Quentin Groves, signed as a free agent, was arrested in April and charged with solicitation in a prostitution sting. Seventh-round draft pick Armonty Bryant was busted in May for driving under the influence. And, most recently, undrafted free agent Ausar Walcott was released by the Browns after he was arrested for an attempted murder earlier this week.
Ozanian adds that despite having the lowest average ticket price in the league, FirstEnergy (formerly Cleveland Browns) Stadium is being filled to only 90% of capacity. Forbes has pegged the team’s revenue at $258 million for the 2011 season, tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 20th in the NFL.
“Don’t be shocked if Haslam unloads his team,” says Ozanian. “It might be the best thing for both the Browns and the NFL.”