Yikes, do people actually think the Cleveland Browns are going to leave?
Everyone remembers or has heard about the Cleveland Browns getting moved to Baltimore in 1995. That squad became the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL ruled the Ravens did not have a history prior to 1996 and that the city of Cleveland owned the legacy of the Browns, and the Ravens have won two Super Bowls since.
And the Browns have gone 0-16. Legacy isn’t everything, apparently.
After the move, the city got the team back, in the form of an expansion team, and well…We all know how that’s gone, don’t we? Yet, despite that happening nearly 30 years ago, and the fact that the state of Ohio has put things into place to prevent that from happening again, there are those fear-mongering that the Browns could leave again.
But they actually can’t.
The Cleveland Browns can’t leave Cleveland thanks to an old law
The Art Modell Law is a thing, it’s a real thing that is also known as Ohio Revised Code 9.67. This code states, rather clearly, that any team that receives tax-supported assistance from a city or state can only leave the city and or state they reside in with express consent from the city and or state that houses them.
So unless the city of Cleveland stops paying any form of assistance to the team, they have the legal right to purchase the Browns from the Haslams, should the Haslams decide they’re done in the city.
"No owner of a professional sports team that uses a tax-supported facility for most of its home games and receives financial assistance from the state or a political subdivision thereof shall cease playing most of its home games at the facility and begin playing most of its home games elsewhere unless the owner either:(A) Enters into an agreement with the political subdivision permitting the team to play most of its home games elsewhere;(B) Gives the political subdivision in which the facility is located not less than six months’ advance notice of the owner’s intention to cease playing most of its home games at the facility and, during the six months after such notice, gives the political subdivision or any individual or group of individuals who reside in the area the opportunity to purchase the team."
So basically, what this means is that the Browns must negotiate with the city of Cleveland to leave and go elsewhere, or they must sell the team to someone who lives in the city. There is no wiggle room for them to just up and move the team. Would the city of Cleveland just let the Browns go?
Unlikely. They’re a great source of revenue and likely, they would find people willing to buy the team from the Haslams.
Now, the law is what it is, as long as the city is supporting the stadium to some degree. So if the city of Cleveland stops supporting the stadium completely, then that will allow the Browns to leave.
I highly doubt Mayor Justin Bibb is going to allow that to happen, even if he doesn’t want to pay for Haslam’s renovation project, at least completely. If he offers up a bit of the money needed, he’ll still fulfill the obligation of the city’s financial assistance of the building and therefore will be able to legally will the Haslams to sell the team if they instead try to move the franchise.
The Art Modell Law already helped keep the Columbus Crew in Columbus
People need to calm down about the Browns leaving, it’s just not going to happen. Even if Jimmy Haslam doesn’t get what he wants with regard to a new stadium or massive renovations, he helped proved this.
Jimmy and his wife Dee benefited from this law before when the Columbus Crew was on the verge of being relocated to San Antonio. While the fandom for the Crew gets a lot of credit for rallying to keep their soccer team, it was actually the Art Modell Law that did most of the work, as Policy Matters Ohio pointed out;
"After the operator of the Columbus Crew indicated in 2017 that the team might move to Texas, then Attorney General Mike DeWine sent him a letter invoking the law and later joined the City of Columbus in filing a suit based on it. They outlined how the owners had received a variety of state and local financial support, ranging from $5 million for parking improvements and a property tax exemption to extending a road as well as moving water and sewer lines for Mapfre Stadium, where the Crew plays. The Art Modell Law, they said, should be enforced.Last May, the judge in the case ordered a 90-day pause on the proceedings and set up a process to facilitate negotiations to explore a settlement. In December, he refused to dismiss the suit.Observers credit the lawsuit for slowing down the move. Ultimately, current Browns owner Jimmy Haslam joined with the Edwards family in Columbus and arranged to buy the team, The suit was dismissed when the sale was imminent,"
The Browns’ ownership group knows very well that if the Crew can file a lawsuit that kept them in Columbus, the Browns will face the same uphill struggle. This is likely what Mayor Bibb is relying on when he tells the Halams that he’s not going to gouge the city to fund Haslam’s desire to Keep Up With the Jones (of the NFL) in his attempt to modernize the Browns’ stadium.
If Haslam tries to move the team, the city of Cleveland has more than enough of a case to sue the Haslams for control of the team. That is if the city of Cleveland even wants the Browns anymore. There exists, albeit a small chance, that the city of Cleveland just doesn’t want to spend money on the Browns. In that case, the team can be moved with no legal issues.