Supporting Browns Ownership is a Tricky Proposition for Fans

Jimmy Haslam seemingly dissatisfied

Jimmy Haslam seemingly dissatisfied

Just 10 short days from now, the Cleveland Browns will officially open Training Camp 2013. It’s hard to believe how fast summer always flies by, but I consider Training Camp to be the beginning of the end of summer. And in just 3 weeks from yesterday, the Dolphins and Cowboys kick things off in the annual Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.

Indeed, real on-field football is right around the corner. Of course, for Browns fans, on-field football seems to be about the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Instead, the story dominating Browns headlines as of late revolves around new owner Jimmy Haslam.

I wish the story was the Browns themselves. Even if that story is about how the Browns rank #31 in ProFootballTalk’s preseason rankings. Or heck, I’d even settle for more talk about the Browns potentially carrying 2 kickers on their roster. But on-field Browns news is hard to come by these days. I actually had to do a Google search to find out if Barkevious Mingo had signed a contract yet1. I was pretty sure he hadn’t, figuring I’d have heard about it if he had. But with so much talk about Jimmy Haslam, it seemed somewhat plausible that he had signed and the news just flew under the radar.

This isn’t meant as a critique of the Browns media, or of blogs such as this one. It’s much more of a critique of Jimmy Haslam’s company (for putting the Browns in this situation) and the NFL itself2. If you can stomach the pain, check out the ‘Browns’ category of this site. It’s ugly seeing the disproportionate number of articles written about off field issues. But again, we as a site can only report and opine on the news that’s given to us. And the biggest story by far continues to be the Pilot Flying J scandal.

For right now, Jimmy Haslam is insisting he didn’t know about any of Pilot Flying J’s wrongdoings and that the Browns are not for sale and that everything is going to be peachy in the long run. I want to believe him. As a Browns fan, I don’t want to think about the Browns changing hands once again and the potential of yet another front office overhaul and yet another coaching regime change.

It’s somewhat challenging as a Browns fan to know exactly how we’re supposed to feel about this. On one hand, Jimmy Haslam is the Browns owner, and as a Browns fan, there feels like an instinct to support him. But there are certain pseudo-moral qualms that go with that support.

First off, whether Haslam knew about it or not, the money he used to buy the Browns came from Pilot Flying J, a company that shrewdly defrauded less sophisticated customers out of money that was owed to them. Second of all, if this all happened under Jimmy Haslam’s nose without his knowledge, it sort of sets a bad precedent of oversight and leadership.

I realize no two companies work exactly the same, but in talking with several people who have worked in sales for large companies, they are pretty unanimous in asserting that sure it’s possible to have a CEO not know something like is going on. Maybe even plausible. But they also felt pretty strongly that a CEO who is a strong, hands-on leader would know about this at least to some degree.

We can debate whether Haslam knew about any of this, but the truth is that for now we don’t know. Instead, I want to focus on what we can control, and that is the level of support given to Jimmy Haslam.

I’ve really wrestled with this idea recently. It wasn’t that long ago that I was thrilled to have Haslam on board. He brought in people who I felt gave the front office a stronger presence and a better pedigree in that role. He brought an infectious energy to the franchise. He quickly had the team featured in a Travel Channel mini-series. Things seemed to be looking up.

Now, it’s hard to know what direction anything is heading, and that makes it somewhat difficult to reconcile how to feel about our new owner. It’s hard to know how to feel about the NFL’s culpability in more or less serving the Browns on a platter to Haslam without a thorough vetting process3. And most of all, it’s hard to understand why this has to be happening to the Browns.

In 10 days, hopefully the narrative switches. I’m sure it will for the most part. Training Camp is exciting, and for the media, it’s a chance to finally see some players in action and get daily quotes and information from coaches, staff, players, etc. But it’s naïve to think that Haslam won’t continue to be a big part of the story. And that’s really the saddest part of all for Browns fans. There’s no real end in sight to this story, and many Browns fans will be left struggling to balance support of the Cleveland Browns with support for Jimmy Haslam.

Short of selling the Browns tomorrow, the best thing for the franchise would be to move forward with Jimmy Haslam remaining as owner. For Haslam to never face charges or have evidence brought up proving his direct knowledge. If that happens, this could all be over in a year or so.

The worst case scenario for fans and the franchise itself would be for the owner to fight and scramble to hang onto the franchise, only to eventually have to give it up a couple years from now. It would mean prolonged doubt, dwindling resources, and general confusion for a couple years, only to start all over again at a later time.

Either way, the fans lose. What are we supposed to be rooting for here? You want the owner to be the kind of CEO who knows everything that is going on in his company. But if that’s the case, then it means he knew about the scam and did nothing to stop it. So is it better for Browns fans to have an owner who was blindsided by his subordinates?

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but as Browns fan, I’m apprehensive as to what the future holds and conflicted about how to feel about Jimmy Haslam. And that’s an unfortunate situation to be in just 10 days from Training Camp.

  1. he hasn’t []
  2. hey NFL, thanks for the hand-picked new owner of the Browns! []
  3. I know the NFL will insist Haslam was vetted through the Steelers organization. I’m sure they’ll say ‘How could we possibly know this was going to happen?’ But the NFL Owners Fraternity, along with the NFL itself, is comprised of some of the most powerful people in America. I find it hard to believe the NFL couldn’t have at least gotten word from the FBI from a confidential source that there might be some dirt on Haslam and that the NFL should tread lightly. But maybe that’s expecting too much on my part []

  • bupalos

    What makes it “ours” is that no one can own the idea of top level football. That what the NFL does. They were granted a monopoly on that idea, and they have abused it, used it for extortion of public funds, and removed something from the city that could not otherwise be removed. So asked and answered.

    BTW this is happening again with the Bills and Cards right now.

  • bupalos

    A business is not a monopoly (in legal terms) because it is literally the only one. Just check out wikipedia on “monopoly.” I think you will find that term, and in fact all the other related terms, “monopsony, oligopoly, and cartel ALL apply in various degrees to the NFL. There is no way if this was a regular business it would be legally allowed to operate in the United States in it’s current form.

  • Hopwin

    Perhaps this conversation would make sense if you defined exactly what is an “idea of top level football” that you keep saying?

  • Hopwin

    Wikipedia is a credible source in the same sense that blogs are. Let’s use the dictionary shall we?

  • lookit, i’ve addressed four questions of yours. let us know what you believe in vis-a-vis ‘the browns: just another franchise business subject to the same legal/moral parameters of a monro muffler’ and then perhaps we can move forward. absent a point, you’re being just contrary.

  • bupalos

    A city fielding a team of the top quality football players to play against other cities teams of top quality football players. This is a practical impossibility outside the NFL cartel rules for a bunch of reasons all of which relate back to either antitrust exemption or civic tradition.

    The antitrust exemptions allowed to the NFL allowed it to corner the market for players. This was especially easy to do and is especially hard to break because a league needs a critical mass of quality players nearly equal to the existing league to be perceived as a credible substitute.

    Even in strike when the NFL temporarily lost 100% control of the labor market, the USFL was unable to become a viable competitor. Absent that breach in the monopsony, it crashed almost immediately.

  • DylonW

    “I don’t think we view child molestation the same way at all…I think it’s wrong and perverted and must be prevented.”

    Wow, as red a red herring as have ever been put forth. I said, “I do not define or derive my sense of self from them.” We all derive our sense of self from something. You’ve decided that my observation of yours is an insult.

    “…and you in the chillingly modern entertainment-consuming capitalist logic that murders everything it touches.”

    No, clearly you weren’t calling me a murderer. I just play the role of the murderer ethos but you’re not calling me a murderer. Got it.

    “Evidence: you did not want to consume this product when it became affiliated with another city. Despite the fact that it became indisputably higher quality. Why would that be?”

    Of course I’m affiliated with the city and support the team which represents the city I call home. That doesn’t change that I still perceive this as a consumable commodity and do not wrap my self identity around or within this team (and as a result insult you?). Civic nature does not mean I’m held hostage to a particular form of entertainment that arose and happens to be that which represents the town in which I grew up. As such I do not take it as a personal affront when a fan of another team insults the Browns and am not injured because the national media doesn’t give the browns the attention they give teams that win. I do not confuse the team for me.

  • Hopwin

    @JK Your “answers” are all illogical statements that beg the question. You cannot simply say whatever you want and expect it to be taken at face value simply because you believe it to be so. This is not Frowns. You are emotionally attached to the Browns as are a lot of people, that doesn’t make it yours. The Browns started out as a poop smear on a map and then someone invested their time and money to equip them, cover travel expenses, market them, train them, recruit them. The end result is an NFL franchise. Just because you buy a product and enjoy it does not make you a brand owner.

    @Bupalos So what you really mean is a natural monopoly then?

  • bupalos

    To all your “I don’t do this” and “I don’t do that” I say nor do I. Nor do any people I know. My point on the injustice of NFL ownership (where this began) does not imply any of those things, and while I congratulate you on the consumerist detachment you keep emoting, I have no idea what relation it is supposed to bear to the question of whether private NFL ownership, conducted as it is, is unsupportable.

    >>>Of course I’m affiliated with the city and support the team which represents the city I call home.>>>

    Well that right there is how the NFL makes half it’s money. That’s a huge chunk of the “product” and that’s the point. The other half they make by threatening to take away the team which represents the city you call home unless your city ponies up a bunch of tax dollars. And all of that is backed by the legal reality that there can be no other team to credibly represent the city you call home in football unless the NFL says so, because they maintain a congressionally exempted monopoly. That’s the point. The whole and entire point. That’s not like another business. That’s not like another entertainment product. It’s just not.

  • bupalos

    OK. Fits that definition to a t. Proceed.

  • bupalos

    No I don’t mean that. That’s nonsense. The NFL doesn’t deliver the “product’ at a lower price. The NFL cornered the market, begged or bought antitrust exemption, and now dictates– completely outside the market– where top level pro football will be played and where it won’t. And they use this monopoly power to extort sums of public cash that account for most of the rise in NFL franchise values over the last 40 years.

    What part of this do you dispute?

  • still dont get the point you’re trying to make if there is one.

  • DylonW

    Sweet Jesus…

    “To all your “I don’t do this” and “I don’t do that” I say nor do I.”

    Where have I done this? You asked questions or made points and I responded in kind. I have stated exactly my perspective. I have engaged in no such series of negations. Is this now just sophistry or outright lying on your part to “win”?

    “I have no idea what relation it is supposed to bear to the question of whether private NFL ownership, conducted as it is, is unsupportable.”

    The dialogue began with my asking why you characterize all rich people as evil. You chose to respond to that question with conjecture and sweeping generalizations. The conversation unfolded from there. You appeared to have no interest in your original topic and I simply responded to whatever premise you put forth. Now at the metaphorical 11th hour you choose to invoke the, “Hey, this isn’t the argument. I want to start over.” What’s next? Will you hold your breath and stomp your feet?

    The irony of your final paragraph is certainly not lost on this reader. We finish where we began: Rich people are evil.

  • bupalos

    >>Where have I done this? >>>

    >>> I do not take it as a personal affront when a fan of another team insults the Browns and am not injured because the national media doesn’t give the browns the attention they give teams that win.>>>

    Nor do I

    >>> I do not confuse the team for me.>>>

    Nor do I

    >>>I still perceive this as a consumable commodity and do not wrap my self identity around or within this team>>>

    Nor do I.

    >>>The dialogue began with my asking why you characterize all rich people as evil.>>>

    Which I didn’t do and specifically declaimed. But go on.

    >>>We finish where we began: Rich people are evil.>>>

    Of course. Because all “rich people” own NFL teams, “most” is the same as “all”, and crime, injustice, and evil are all the same things. I’ll just let that stand and have done. This is truly worthless.

  • Garry_Owen

    Not to mention the FBI’s “back channel informant” risking criminal charges of his (or her) own by doing so.

  • DylonW

    We finally agree on something.