CLEVELAND -- A TV station sued the Cleveland Browns on
Tuesday after the team said it would break the station's contract
to broadcast preseason games and other programming.
The Browns are upset because the station aired a 911 call
involving the team owner's relatives.
WOIO-TV aired the call placed by owner Randy Lerner's sister,
Nancy Fisher, after she found her 6-year-old daughter drowned in a
creek on family property July 9.
Recordings of 911 calls are public records and are routinely
made available to the media. One of the city's three other TV
stations also aired a portion of the recording.
Browns vice president Michael Keenan sent a letter to Bill
Applegate, WOIO's vice president and general manager, on July 13
informing him the team was terminating the contract, citing what he
called irresponsible journalism.
"The recent coverage of the Lerner family tragedy is but the
latest, albeit the most shocking and insensitive example of this
destructive behavior," Keenan wrote.
He also accused the station's reporters of "sensationalized,
overtly negative reporting on the organization and its players."
WOIO, a CBS affiliate, is seeking to keep the contract and to
collect damages exceeding $25,000. The case was assigned to
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy McMonagle.
The station is in the second year of a three-year contract
paying slightly more than $3.9 million for the rights to certain
"As far as we're concerned, there is a binding contract and
WOIO has not breached the contract," said attorney John Kluznik,
who represents the station.
Browns spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said the matter is being
handled by the team's attorneys.
"Training camp opens tomorrow for us. That's where our focus
is," he said.
Lerner has said that no matter the outcome of the dispute, the
preseason games will be shown live on a local station. The first
game is Aug. 10 against Philadelphia.
Most of the team's regular-season games also are shown on the
CBS station under NFL network contracts.