Haslam Appears At NFL Owners Meeting To Apologize For Pilot Flying J Investigation
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam III, whose Pilot Flying J trucking company remains involved in a federal investigation, apologized “for any damage done to the NFL brand,” according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. Haslam at the NFL owners meetings this week “addressed his fellow owners for about five minutes.” His appearance “wasn't on the agenda,” but Haslam “asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if he could speak to the group.” Haslam after the meeting said, "I thought it was important. We're partners in the NFL. I wanted to address them face-to-face." By the accounts of “three owners and another key team executive,” Haslam "scored major points in strengthening his NFL ties.” Sources at the meeting felt Haslam “seemed sincere in maintaining that he wasn't personally involved in the scheme.” Haslam outlined some of the “internal measures he has undertaken with Pilot Flying J, which include an audit review and the hiring of a compliance officer.” He also offered to “speak additionally in private about his issues with any owners who wanted further explanation.” Steelers President Art Rooney II said, "He doesn't want to bring any embarrassment on to fellow owners" (USA TODAY, 5/22). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted Haslam is "doing everything he can to wall off" Pilot Flying J from the Browns. But if the situation "unfolds badly for Jimmy Haslam and he ends up being indicted, then you could see some disruption at the top of the organization." Florio: "The challenge is to keep it from trickling down to the football operation. We're still months away from any type of resolution there. Until then, they just go forward with the football team and try to improve" ("PFT," NBC Sports Network, 5/22).
A BANNER YEAR: Browns CEO Joe Banner said of working with Haslam, “He gives me a degree of independence and trust, but at the same time I talk to him every day and he asks all the right questions. He's here regularly and makes us better through his insights and smarts. … He's got an infectious optimism about him, so it's a perfect situation from my perspective.” Banner added of how the federal investigation affects team business, “There's no impact other than as we've grown to know him and his family, and we care about him. It's just hard to see him go through it. But as far as the operation of the team? No impact." CBSSPORTS.com’s Clark Judge wrote Banner is “unfazed” by the team’s current situation. Banner insisted that things “can ... and will ... change ‘pretty quickly.’" Banner said of uniform changes for the Browns, "We promise that the helmet won't change. We promise the new look will respect the history. We're going to do a lot of focus groups. We're not going to put something out there that we haven't done a lot of research on. It's not going to be anything radical, I can guarantee that. But it will be new, forward looking and energetic. It will reflect what we want the franchise to be" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/22).