Let's get this fact out in the open right away: I am not a billionaire. And guess what? There's a 99.9% chance that you're not a billionaire either.
With that being said, billionaires are different than you and me. What we would do with our money is different than what a billionaire would do with their money.
Jimmy Haslam is arguably the second worst owner in the NFL. Unequivocally, Dan Snyder is the worst, but many of Snyder's transgressions were away from the football field. Since the new millennium, Jimmy Haslam's Cleveland Browns have the second worst WINNING PERCENTAGE in the league. The NFL, for fans, is about winning and losing. The NFL, for owners, is about making money.
Do I think Jimmy Haslam's number one goal is to bring a championship to Cleveland? I do not. Does Jimmy Haslam want to win a championship for himself? Oh, I'm sure he does, but let me tell you why we're splitting hairs.
I do not want to hear Jimmy Haslam talk any more. He has owned the team for over a decade and he has watched his team value skyrocket while making only nominal improvements to things like the locker room and the team headquarters. I want to see action. The Browns lease at the Stadium expires in 2028. The Browns lease at their corporate headquarters in Berea expires in 2029. 2028 is 5 years away. I want him to SIGN SOMETHING.
This week, Haslam has stated that he is committed to improvements to the stadium. Just last month, Jimmy and Dee Haslam wanted a NEW stadium.
I want to drop this quote in your lap:
"(Cleveland Leaders plan) a massive renovation that will cost somewhere between $500 million to $1 billion and take two to three years to complete.
When the stadium and waterfront overhaul are complete, if all goes as planned, all the cool kids will want to move to The 216." - Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com
Yes you read that right, team mouthpiece Mary Kay Cabot is convinced the Haslams are committed to Cleveland. As a matter of fact, I couldn't find anyone in the Cleveland Media that held Haslem's feet to the fire that Jimmy didn't actually sign anything. Cleveland.com, WKNR, WKRK, they're all in bed with the Browns. Bloomdaddy on WTAM should be the most vocal critic of the Browns, that dude still hasn't figured out that he's not in West Virginia anymore.
Why do I doubt the Haslams? This is a quote from Multi-Billionaire Stan Kroenke, 5 years before the Rams lease was up in St. Louis:
"I'm going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis."
I believe that the Haslams are not about Cleveland, but about creating a Sports Entertainment Empire like Stan Kroenke. Kroenke owns 9 sports teams in Los Angeles, Colorado and Great Britain.
How can I make such an outlandish statement? Since Jimmy Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns, he has founded the Haslam Sports Group, bought MLS's Columbus Crew and purchased a stake in the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. With the approval of the Bucks Minority Ownership purchase, the Haslam Sports Group would be the 15th largest sports entertainment group in North America.
With the money the Haslams will eventually spend on the Bucks (25% of the team now, co-majority control in 5 years,) they could have bought the Cleveland Guardians and built a new Browns stadium in Cleveland with a 50/50 Public-Private split. The Haslams could have been the King and Queen of Cleveland.
Instead of the Haslams owning Cleveland, I want to tell you a cautionary tale about the Rockefellers, who could have owned the same city. Arguably the richest man in American history was John D Rockefeller. He started to make his fortune in Cleveland and at one time his company, Standard Oil, refined 90% of the oil produced in the United States.
Rockefeller didn't build Cleveland, he exploited it. In 1872, Rockefeller orchestrated the "Cleveland Massacre" where he bought out 22 of 26 rival companies in the area. Within a decade, Standard Oil's consolidations necessitated Rockefeller's move to New York. Rockefeller continued to summer in Cleveland until nearly 1920, when Cleveland was the 5th largest city in the United States.
Rockefeller's million dollar house in Cleveland mysteriously burned down a hundred years ago.
Rockefeller's million dollar church in Cleveland was demolished sixty years ago.
Rockefeller's neighborhood "Millionaire's Row" is mostly gone and the few houses that remain have fallen into disrepair.
Even Rockefeller's cemetery has fallen on hard times. Lake View Cemetery houses an abandoned dam and luminaries from a century ago, but the land that buffers the cemetery on the east is in East Cleveland, "the poorest city in Ohio."
Almost 100 years after Rockefeller's death, Cleveland is the second poorest large city in America.
Almost 100 years after Rockefeller's death, the Rockefeller Heirs are still the 43rd Richest Family in the entire United States.
Where is Rockefeller Center? Not in Cleveland.
Billionaire Jimmy Haslam is at a crossroads that only I can seemingly see. I believe he still wants that shiny new $2 billion+ stadium. He is 5 years out from his lease ending and I am telling you, he is using the negotiating ploy of improvements to the Stadium as a stalling tactic while he fashions his "real plan."
Which is? Some say the signing Deshaun Watson last year was a 'desperate' move because Jimmy wanted to win so badly. I partially believe that statement. I think he's desperate to win, not for winnings' sake, but so he can demand a new stadium from SOMEONE. No one likes a loser. The Browns don't have to win a Super Bowl, they just have to string 3 winning seasons together and get in the playoffs.
Your retort is that the Browns would never leave Cleveland twice?
Let me tell you the story of the gullible Cleveland Fan in my lifetime.
1990: The Indians would NEVER leave Cleveland. Later you found out that the threat wasn't a bluff, the Indians were going to leave Cleveland with Faye Vincent playing the hatchet man. Luckily, Gateway passed.
1994: The Browns would NEVER leave Cleveland. Two years later, the Browns were gone. Art Modell's defense for moving the team was that he was tricked by Cleveland politicians. In my advanced age, I don't feel sorry for those tricked by politicians.
2010: LeBron would NEVER leave Cleveland. The story of "The Decision"
2018: LeBron would NEVER leave Cleveland, AGAIN. Yeah, guess what?
2023: The Browns would NEVER leave Cleveland, AGAIN...
Starting with this year's Hall of Fame game in Canton, fans need to start picketing outside of Browns games with this simple message "extend the lease."
Every time you see team propagandist Nathan Zegura around Browns Stadium, yell at him "extend the lease." Eventually he'll crack and start crying "leave Jimmy alone." The fans need to hold Jimmy Haslam's feet to the fire immediately.
The team is the Cleveland Browns, not the Haslam Browns. Egotistical billionaires like Stan Kroenke violate the public trust by painting cities as properties instead of partners.
But here's where Businessman Jimmy Haslam is going to try to pull the bait and switch. Again, the time for Haslam to do the right thing has already past. If he wanted to build a stadium in Cleveland, he could have done that. Instead he was busy expanding his portfolio.
In the next year or two, there will be extensive talks about upgrading a 24 year old stadium that, currently, is in use about 10 times a year. The Haslams want a multi-purpose complex-
Have you driven by Cleveland Browns Stadium? Where the hell are they going to put anything? Parking and access at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next door are a nightmare with NO Browns games going on.
Editor's Note: First Energy paid over $100 million for you to call the stadium First Energy Stadium, why do we keep calling it Browns Stadium? We don't work for the NFL, we can call it Giant Football Toilet if we want.
Logistically, the Haslams' Grand Vision cannot be realized at the current site in Cleveland. The Haslams hired a consultant, HKS Architects, to design their version of the future and now they're going to abandon that to see what the city comes up with? Doubtful. That's why the Haslams are laying down the false talking points of Stadium improvements to bide time.
Here's what's happening now: The Cleveland City Fathers are now scrambling to draw up construction blueprints and bid procedures for stadium improvements-
At the same time, the Haslams are having exploratory, off-the-record, talks with places like Columbus. How can I make such inflammatory and speculative comments? Because the Haslams already have a relationship with the Columbus City Fathers. Guess what? The Haslams already got a real sweetheart deal for the Crew from Columbus. How sweet?
The stadium is owned by the Confluence Community Authority (CCA), a special district governed by the City of Columbus and Franklin County. The Crew have a 30-year lease with the CCA with an annual rent of $10 and an option to purchase the stadium outright in 2047 for 30 percent of its market value. - Columbus Dispatch
So Columbus built the Crew a $300 million dollar stadium, charges the team $10 a month in rent, and the team has the option to buy the stadium for $100 million in 2047? That sounds like a deal a city would make if they wanted to cozy up to a guy that owns an NFL franchise.
Editor's Note II: We double checked the math. Yes, the rent is just one bill with Alexander Hamilton on it. There is a clause in the least which allows the Haslams to pay the $300 in one lump sum. I couldn't find any proof that the Haslams have paid that $300 yet.
Which brings us to the crux of our story. Jimmy Haslam can say he's committed to Northeast Ohio, then he can hedge and say he's committed to Ohio. In his southern drawl, he can wink and nod, while evolving his language to say he's committed to the region.
If Columbus gives him a $2 billion+ stadium attached to real estate and commercial development, he can SAY he isn't moving the Browns, just adjusting the location of the home games. Probably half the country wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between Columbus and Cleveland.
We have been beating on this drum for the last 3 years when Dee Haslam first broached the topic of a new stadium. Since then, nothing concrete has been agreed upon, just discussed. Go back to our article in 2020 and it is clear that the Haslams are moving toward Proposal B. What was 2020's Proposal B?
In a Jimmy Haslam accent:
'Mike Brown, you sell the Bengals. Just flat out sell and take that check from the highest bidder. I will follow the Columbus Plan, and quite frankly, we enjoy the relationships that we have built in Columbus. What we get in Cleveland is a bunch of questions and static. If we move to Columbus, I could see the Haslems owning Ohio for 50 years. I can see my wife Dee becoming a hands-on version of Virginia Halas McCaskey.
Mike, cash that 2 Billion Dollar check and don't look back. You've set up generations of the Brown Family and I'll even place plaques up at the new Columbus Stadium honoring the contributions that the Brown Family have made to the National Football League.
There's over 2 dozen billionaires in Toronto, Ontario alone, you could sell to someone who wants to bring the NFL to Canada and the league could own the country up North like the Raptors own the NBA. What we can't have is 2 teams, 4 hours apart looking for stadiums in the same state. I am telling you, Columbus is itching to build a palace. We both know that Cleveland and Cincinnati are not.
If you consolidate the Cleveland and Cincinnati markets, it's like getting an expansion franchise for free without watering down the product. Just like when the Raiders moved to Las Vegas, the NFL kept their footprint in the Bay Area, while creating a second footprint in the desert Southwest.
Either plan works for me, because I want to be one of the owners that helps the NFL transition through the next generation. And that next generation is a regional model, not a city model.'
The wild card is Mike Brown. How do I know it isn't Mike Brown looking to go to Columbus? You're exactly right, I don't. Mike's Dad, the Great Paul Brown, had stops in Massillon, Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. It would bring the Brown Family legacy full circle if the Bengals returned to Columbus. The Bengals lease expires in 2026, Haslam can idly sit by while Mike Brown plays his hand first.
Don't forget, the Browns tried to move training camp to Columbus on two separate occasions.
Could Columbus support 2 teams like Los Angeles? Great question, but now we're really circling down the rabbit hole. You claim I have an active imagination? Again, it's not you or I running the Browns, it's Jimmy Haslam. A billionaire doesn't care about a city, a billionaire worries about becoming a multi-billionaire.
You think I'm a uneducated blogger trying to stir up trouble? You know I'll be wrong when Jimmy Haslam SIGNS THE LEASE. Until he does, technically, I am right.