It was about this time last year when reports surfaced about Jimmy Haslam buying the Cleveland Browns. Now, as the Browns begin training camp, they have to address questions whether Haslam will have to sell the team.
Haslam's Pilot Flying J truck stop business is the focus of a federal investigation for rebate fraud. Haslam has said he had no knowledge of any rebate wrongdoing.
Browns CEO Joe Banner once again tried to appease the fan base Wednesday, saying he doesn't believe Haslam will be forced to give up the Browns.
“I don’t know what we can say beyond what we’ve said.” Banner told reporters Wednesday, via The Akron Beacon Journal. “I understand why that doesn’t give everybody total peace of mind. We’re operating the team exactly as we would, whether this would have happened or not. Jimmy’s here and incredibly supportive and a huge asset to us. He’s made it clear and I’ve tried to make it clear without any ambiguity at all that he’s not going to sell the team. But I understand why until that actually happens and this thing plays itself out it’s a legitimate question for people to continue asking.”
The question that everyone needs to ask is whether Haslam will have enough cash for the Browns. When it comes to owning an NFL team, you need the financial resources to do it.
If Haslam gets charged with a crime, he can step away as owner and simply give active control of the team to another family member. I can't see him being forced to sell unless he is convicted of a federal crime. Five Pilot employees have already pleaded guilty in the case, and the criminal investigation is ongoing.
Pilot Flying J is trying to reach settlement agreements with trucking companies. According to Pilot's website, the agreement is to pay trucking companies 100 percent of what they're owed in rebates or discounts, plus 6 percent interest. We'll have to see how this affects the government's case.
Asked if he envisioned any scenario where the Browns would be sold, Banner said: “I don’t see that scenario, but, you know ..."