SBD/July 15, 2014/Franchises

Haslam Agrees To $92M Fine In Trucking Scandal, But Won't Be Penalized By NFL

Haslam did not violate the NFL's personal conduct policy and will not be punished
Pilot Flying J, the trucking company run by Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III, has agreed to pay a $92M penalty as "part of a federal investigation of fraud against the company’s customers," but Haslam "won't be penalized by the NFL," according to Michael David Smith of PRO FOOTBALL TALK. The league said that it "sees no indication in the investigation into Haslam’s company that Haslam personally did anything that constitutes a violation of the NFL’s personal-conduct policy." NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello said, “There have been no allegations of any personal conduct that is in violation of NFL policy" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 7/14). Haslam yesterday said that Pilot Flying J has been "committed to making right the losses inflicted on customers in the fuel rebate investigation that has engulfed his Knoxville, Tenn.-based company." In Cleveland, Alison Grant notes Haslam has said since the April '13 FBI raid on his business that he "had no prior knowledge that Pilot's sales team was cheating trucking customers" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/15). In Akron, Marla Ridenour notes Haslam "is not off the hook." The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee in a release said the agreement “provides no protection from prosecution to any individual” and emphasized that Pilot must continue to cooperate in the investigation. Ridenour notes there is "still time for the government to find proof that Haslam had knowledge of the fraud." But what is "more pressing" is whether the $92M fine will "affect the Browns’ football operations." Ridenour: "I presume it won't hurt the Browns. ... But the federal investigation hung over the Browns like a black cloud" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/15). In Cleveland, Cliff Pinckard noted federal investigators and Flying Pilot J officials said that individuals "may still be prosecuted." Still, yesterday was a "day of good news for Haslam" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/14).

SERVICE ANIMALS: In Cleveland, Tom Reed noted the Browns are "entering the live mascot business." Browns VP/Fan Experience & Marketing Kevin Griffin said that the club "will use a bullmastiff as its mascot this season after years of just having costumed canines roaming the sidelines." The dog will be "named Swagger and lead the team onto the field before games" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/13). In Akron, Nate Ulrich noted some Browns fans have "voiced complaints about the dog’s name via social media, but the team did not name the dog." The Browns will become the "latest NFL team to use a live animal as part of their game-day festivities." The Seahawks "have a hawk named Taima," the Broncos a white Arabian horse named Thunder and the Ravens "use ravens named Rise and Conquer" (OHIO.com, 7/14).
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