Cleveland Browns Fans are S-C-R-E-W-E-D
Do you know who the biggest a-hole in the NFL is (that's not the Commissioner?) Now some of you may say it's Jerry Jones, because he has the name recognition and a secret child. Some of you may say it's Dan Snyder, he's a bad, bad boy and is currently facing a Congressional Investigation into some shaky NFL business practices. Still others may contend it's Stephan M. Ross. In Ross' Case, let's just say that I believe Brian Flores 100%.
But I'm here to tell you that you're all wrong. The correct answer is Rams owner Stan Kroenke. In a club of shady characters, Kroenke is by far the shadiest. And how was Kroenke disciplined for being the biggest a-hole in the NFL? Roger Goodell handed him the Lombardi Trophy after literally letting him do whatever he wanted over the past decade. Stan Kroenke was an a-hole, and then he got over.
In 2010 - Stan Kroenke became majority owner of the St. Louis Rams.
"I'm going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis."
Stan Kroenke is a billionaire.
Stan Kroenke's Wife, Ann WALTON Kroenke, is also a billionaire.
In 2015 - The Kroenke Group announced they were building a new stadium in the Los Angeles suburbs.
In 2020 - SoFi Stadium opened as the new home of the Los Angeles Rams.
In 2022 - The Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI in their home stadium.
From 2010 to 2022, Stan Kroenke was involved in about a hundred lawsuits related to his ownership practices. In the end, Kroenke and his wife didn't HAVE to leave St. Louis, they WANTED to leave St. Louis. There were signs Kroenke had a roving eye for the Rams even before he took full ownership from the Estate of Georgia Frontiere.
And Stan Kroenke had established a pattern of behavior by fostering civic distrust when he helped move the Rams to St. Louis in the first place. Kroenke now has a sports portfolio of a dozen teams, including Arsenal in the Premier League. "Arsenel Fans Don't Like Stan Kroenke, NOT MANY PEOPLE DO, but when it comes to Arsenal, why is that exactly?" - The Daily Cannon
What in the hell does all of that have to do with the Cleveland Browns?
In 2012 - Jimmy and Dee Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns from Randy Lerner.
In 2017 - Jimmy and Dee Haslam sold a minority stake in their primary business, Pilot Flying J, to Berkshire Hathaway. In 2023 that minority stake becomes an 80% majority stake.
In 2018 - Jimmy and Dee Haslam bought the MLS' Columbus Crew.
In 2021 - Lower.com field opened as the new home of the Crew in Columbus.
In 2029 - The Cleveland Browns 'ironclad' lease expires.
Do the Haslams want to extend the Browns' current lease? Nooooooo.
(How do I know this? Because they haven't done it.)
Do the Haslams want a new stadium? Yeeeeessss.
(How do I know this? Because they haven't extended their lease.)
Here's the new mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, 34 year old community organizer Justin Bibb.
Is Justin Bibb, who started the non-profit group Cleveland Can't Wait in 2020, which focuses on underdeveloped and underrepresented neighborhoods in Cleveland, anxious to build a sports stadium for billionaires that live in Tennessee? Nooooooooo.
This isn't MLB, the NFL is a violent sport. Leading the league in guaranteed contracts, in the NFL, isn't a good idea, it's a roll of the dice. Doesn't anyone in this town remember LeCharles Bently?
But the bigger question is, why would ownership tie all that guaranteed money up?
1 - They are desperate to win.
2- They are stupid.
3 - They are Stan Kroenke-level evil.
Last year, half the quarterbacks in the NFL played 16 or 17 games. Signing DeShaun Watson was a coin-flip, good vs. bad football move. It was a calculated risk, especially considering his legal predicament. It was for sure a bad PR move. If the Browns win a Super Bowl, good move. But if Watson is injured, you have crippled the Browns for the next 5 years, both on the field and on the salary front. An injured Watson could account for 20% of salary space on the bench in 2023.
Your counter is that Watson won't get hurt, Tom Brady is in his 40's?
Let's cut to the chase, something is fishy behind the scenes in Brownstown and I'm telling you it starts at the top. The guaranteed money they're throwing around isn't a good sign, it's a red flag. Right now, this off season, you have to confront the Haslams about their intent with the Browns. If they say something to the effect of "we need a new stadium or we're moving," You run them out of town on a rail right f***ing now. Are they trying to win desperately now because they're sick of losing, or because they are desperate for a new home in Cleveland...or somewhere else.
If they hem and haw and say 2029 is a long way off, you hold their feet to the fire. You don't let the Haslams yank the rug out from under you like that Bastard Art Modell did.
Don't forget, Stan Kroenke not only moved the Rams, but he pried the Chargers out of San Diego and caused all kinds of drama for the Raiders before they ended up in Las Vegas.
Which brings me to my point. 2 years ago I wrote an article called The Ohio Bengals. In the piece, I speculated that Jimmy Haslam would make a pitch to team up with Mike Brown of the Bengals where either the Browns or the Bengals would move to Columbus and ask for 2 billion dollars in state, not city, money to keep one of the teams in Ohio. All the while the other team would move out of town to an emerging market.
Remember, neither Haslam nor Brown are all that popular in their current cities. But after seeing the "successes" of the Rams and Chargers, I want to add an addendum to that article. Ohio State's Ohio Stadium is now over 100 years old. What if Ohio State, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Mike Brown and Mike DeWine all sat down and hammered out a deal for a 2 billion dollar Football Palace in Columbus? Ohio State gets a new home, and both the Browns' and Bengals' new homes are a 2 hour drive away to Columbus.
Just last month at cincinnati.com, columnist Paul Daugherty argued "it's time we talked about the elephant in the room...Bengals lease expires after 2026 season."
The Bengals fans are anxious, Cincinnati just opened a brand new soccer stadium last year. The Browns and the Haslams have a civic partnership. The Bengals and the Brown Family have a civic partnership. I live in Cleveland and don't trust the Haslams. (If I lived in Cincinnati, I wouldn't trust the Brown Family, either.) Just a reminder, the trip from San Diego to Los Angeles is about 2 hours.
Speaking as a Cleveland Browns Fan, I want to hear the Haslams talking in folksy platitudes like the Rooneys in Pittsburgh. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh is about the same age as First Energy Stadium here in Cleveland. To my knowledge, there's no undercurrent in Pittsburgh for a new stadium. Are the Haslams throwing around guaranteed money to justify needing a multi-billion dollar stadium? A stadium that SOMEONE will pay for, not necessarily the City of Cleveland.
Some brave reporter needs to pin down the Haslams. Not local puppets like Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com or Nathan Zegura at WKNR, a national media member. He/she needs to look Jimmy and Dee in the eyes and say "where do you see the Cleveland Browns in 10 years?"
IF they answer "Cleveland is our second home and we look forward to working with city leaders for solutions that work for both the Browns and the city of Cleveland."
Then there's hope and I'm overreacting.
IF they answer "we are always looking for new revenue streams to grow the game of football. Our approach to guaranteed contracts in the offseason is more indicative of the way we want to conduct business over the next decade. We want the Browns organization to be the most forward thinking team in the league and we want both our team and our league to grow."
Next year the Haslams with be mostly detached from the Pilot/Flying J tether. If they talk like the Browns are now their BUSINESS and don't use the word Cleveland, that is code that the Browns are following the Kroenke Template and Cleveland is screwed.