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Don Banks: Browns' Jimmy Haslam Won't Lose Team

Despite earlier rumors to the contrary, SI's Don Banks doesn't think Jimmy Haslam will lose the Cleveland Browns.


I am not here to be a judge of character. I am here because I want the Browns to be a stable football franchise that competes, wins, and does so consistently. If you haven't read Don Banks most recent piece as he discusses the Pilot Flying J scandal, Jimmy Haslam, The Browns, and how the NFL isn't planning to strip him of ownership, I suggest you do so here.

Every year, each of us feels a sense of excitement that grows with the thought of summer. Longer days full of sunshine; warmth; outdoor activities and social gatherings:

When the NFL team owners convene at a Boston airport hotel on Tuesday for their one-day spring meeting, the matter of Haslam's Pilot Flying J company being investigated by the government for a scheme involving diesel fuel rebate fraud will be the elephant in the room. In a league that covets stability and cringes at the effect that bad publicity can have on its reputation and bottom line, Haslam will naturally find himself in an unwanted spotlight among his 31 league partners.

Here in Hawaii the first summer swell on the south shore arrived over the weekend. While surfing and wave size / location is never consistently predictable, every year right around Memorial Day ( plus or minus 10 days ) a south swell arrives to the islands due to changes in the weather patterns in the southern hemisphere. It arrived this past weekend and topped nearly 20 foot on Friday! That size is both massive and rare for the south shore of Hawaii. That didn't stop these 20 foot beasts from rolling in: one, after another, after another; set, after set, after set, for the entire weekend. They are expected to continue throughout the week, but still be around 10 feet next weekend.


As Browns' fans our only predictable swell has been bad luck. Much like Don Banks discusses below; a once great franchise has somehow miserably and dramatically been predisposed to failure; time and time again; swell, after swell, after swell. No warm sandy beaches and hot bikinis or big waves and cold beers, not for Cleveland Browns fans:

In the relatively short but tortured history of the re-incarnated Cleveland Browns, every dark cloud appearing on the horizon has generally presaged a darker and more ominous one, leading the team's fans and even the organization itself to develop an almost instinctive, reflexive flinch when it comes to the potential for bad news and the consequences of poor decisions.

That being said, many Browns fans actually believe things are getting better. I personally believe the product on the field and the coaching staff surrounding it may be among the most solid gleams of hope we've had since the return. I believed things were really turning around, finally. Not just because of new coaches, but because it all starts with the stability, vision, and guidance from the owner. And although I was initially upset by the Banner and Lombardi hire, I was more than willing to give them a fair chance because I believed Haslam would no longer allow mediocrity inside the Browns organization.

But just when things seemed to be getting better, the Pilot Flying J rebate scandal and FBI investigation hit Browns fans and the NFL like a massive, unpredicted 20' south swell.

Questions flooded the media and message boards as fans reacted. What was going to happen to Haslam? Did he know? How could he not know? Is he being charged specifically or is it just the company or individuals in it? The FBI is involved and they win like 99% of the time, this is bad right?

I am not a lawyer. I do no pretend to be one. I listen to the information out there. I read. I check the sources. I reflect. I ask more questions. I read some more.

While no one within the league office is taking the possibility of a felony conviction against Haslam's company lightly, sources quickly point out that Haslam has not yet been personally charged with any wrongdoing, and say the Browns owner and former minority owner of the Steelers remains a known quantity within the league who has both the trust of Goodell and his fellow team owners.

I read the entire Pilot Flying J affidavit. I also read takes like those from our very own Matt Wood, that helped to provide perspective. After hearing and reading the news, I immediately wondered what this would do to Haslam's assets and how dealing with a potential law suit would impact his ability to run the Browns. That was my primary question. I then wondered what the NFL would do if Haslam was individually implicated or found guilty. Could he lose the team?

I realized how bad the affidavit was but also realized there was a lot left that needed to unfold before the doom and gloom became real. I always maintained a belief that Haslam wouldn't be found guilty and that things were for once, somehow, going to work out for the Browns. Don Banks also seems to believe this, at least for now:

But for now, at least according to league and team sources, the idea of Haslam having to change his long-term status in team ownership in reaction to the fraud case seems unlikely. There's a long way to go in the Haslam case, but for once, the Browns might just steer clear of the worst-case scenario.

What do you think?