Yesterday and today the IRS and FBI were involved in taking control of and seizing property and information at the Pilot/Flying J headquarters down in Tennessee. For Cleveland Browns fans this meant another incident of concern with our team, in this case the owner of the Browns is also the CEO of Pilot/Flying J.
Appropriate coverage has followed of what information we have so far, including a press conference by Browns owner Mr. Jimmy Haslam. During this time not only were questions directed to Mr. Haslam related to his primary business but also relating to the Browns. Mr. Haslam assured that these events would have no impact on the day to day operations or his ownership of the Browns. He reports that in primary dispute, leading to the FBI and IRS’s interest, is due to a disagreement from customers related to rebates. I will leave all discussion related to these type of legal matters to those with law degrees. Needless to say it does not seem from the outside that this issue will have grave impact on Mr. Haslam’s ownership of the Browns. If more information presents related to this we will attempt to cover appropriately.
Yet this did bring up a festering wound for Browns fans. Instability at the top of the organization. While many did not agree with the hiring of Joe Banner, the firing of Tom Heckert, and/or the hirings of Rob Chudsinski and Michael Lombardi, it was the pedigree of Mr. Haslam, including his history as part owner of the rival Steelers that gave some hope to the stability he might bring. While we wait for information to come forward on Mr. Haslam part in these allegations, and can presume him innocent until proven guilty, he may have just lost the benefit of the doubt with Browns fans early in his ownership of the team. His honeymoon ended quickly like a Hollywood marriage.
We also hope that Mr. Haslam bought this team with long term planning in mind. Fans, especially the fanatical Cleveland ones, will build back their good will shortly following a few wins, a playoff run and/or victories over our hated AFC North rivals.
So this isn’t the final chapter in his story as Browns owner, but here and now Mr. Haslam has to prove his dedication to the Browns. He has to prove more then that to the FBI and the IRS right now.