As a follow up to the previous post on the Jimmy Haslam situation, documents from the FBI filing have been reviewed and the news is not good. It is reported that fraudulent behavior has been the norm at Mr. Haslam’s Pilot/Flying J for “many years” and that Mr. Haslam is aware of this practice. These documents that were filed in court brings up a couple of questions important for Browns fans.
What will the legal outcome be?
Obviously from a personal and professional standpoint what happens in the court system is going to be of primary concern for Mr. Haslam. Could this cause enough problems for his company that it has a great impact on his personal finances? If so does Mr. Haslam have to put the Browns back on the market for sale? Will he have to foreclose? Will the Browns move again? If the report is correct and Mr. Haslam is/was aware of these practices and approved of them he may face personal legal charges. At that point all bets may be off related to his ownership of the Browns.
How will this effect his role in Cleveland?
As I discussed in my previous post, Mr. Haslam’s name is now pulled through the mud of this investigation. Can he continue to lead the team? How will players, other teams, the NFL or employees trust his word if these are true? A long and arduous legal process is probably up coming. A positive is that Mr. Haslam has hired a number of Executives to run different parts of his team including Joe Banner and Alec Scheiner, who Haslam was able to lure from the Dallas Cowboys. These hires were important at there time, and now are vital for all business, both on the football and non football sides, to continue hopefully unaffected.
Will Jimmy Haslam continue own the Browns?
There are many factors here including those noted above, but most importantly is the NFL itself. There is a detailed and thorough vetting process for any potential owners. While Haslam has passed all of those in order to purchase the team, things have changed, and drastically. How will the NFL, who has shown a main goal of “protecting the shield” react to federal charges? Will they force Haslam’s hand? It is hard to believe the NFL will feel like “the shield” is in good hands with a man whose company engaged in schemes seeking to commit fraud on its customers? Highly unlikely.
What do Browns fans do?
Unfortunately Browns fans are used to be disappointed, yet normally its with the play on the field or decisions from the front office. In this case, this early in his ownership, Mr. Haslam has put himself in a very difficult situation with the fans. Fans already questioned hiring Banner and Mike Lombardi, now they may be questioning Haslam as a person as well as an owner. In the end there is nothing fans can do. Instead the fans are left waiting, left worrying and left concerned about the team we love so much.