Browns Owner Denies Wrongdoing In FBI Investigation, Remains Focused On Draft
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III yesterday “denied wrongdoing in a federal investigation aimed at his family business, Pilot Flying J, and said ‘the last thing I want to do’ is put a blemish on Cleveland or the Browns,” according to a front-page piece by John Caniglia of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam said that the “focus of the week should be the start of the Browns' minicamp.” He planned to “return to Cleveland" tomorrow and "be involved in preparations for the NFL Draft, which begins next week.” Haslam said that he “believed the federal criminal investigation centers on allegations by ‘a very insignificant number’ of trucking company customers that were owed rebates that were never paid.” He said of the allegations, "We, of course, disagree" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/17). ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted, “There have been subpoenas issued to some executives in the company. Jimmy Haslam is not one of them. Keep in mind that last summer when he purchased the Browns, he stepped away from the company but began to get back involved in the company in February. He feels a tremendous passion for this company, wants to be a part of this company and he feels ultimately that his company in this lengthy investigation will be exonerated” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 4/16).
HOT IN CLEVELAND? In Cleveland, Terry Pluto writes it is “never good when the FBI shows up at your office and raids the place.” But it is “even worse" when the IRS comes along. Pluto writes, “So you can understand why some fans are very nervous about what's happening with the owner of their favorite football team.” Perhaps “none of this will affect the Browns.” Haslam said it will be "business as usual." Pluto: “But candidly, as the owner likes to say, fans are worried about their team and the new owner.” At the “very least, the FBI probe will divide his attention,” and it is “never cheap to defend yourself in this type of criminal investigation” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/17).