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Why Art Modell will never be in the Hall of Fame

On November 6th, 1995, the Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell publicly announced in Baltimore Maryland that the Cleveland Browns are relocating to Baltimore. It is the most infamous date and act of betrayal in Cleveland sports history. The event triggered an unprecedented herculean task of Cleveland Browns fans to fight to keep their team. The first step was a county ballot initiative the next day. The voters of Cuyahoga County Ohio were voting on an extension of a tax to remodel Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The tax extension passed by an 80% for and a 20% against margin. If that vote did not pass the Cleveland Browns today could be a mere memory for Cleveland sports fans. The vote and the lease that had 3 years remaining with the city, was the legal leverage needed to keep Art Modell from moving the Browns. The fallout from this decision still resonates today.

In February of 1996 Art Modell, the NFL, the city of Cleveland Ohio negotiated a deal to keep the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland Ohio. Art Modell could move his team and he left the team’s name, colors, and history that will remain in Cleveland, Cleveland must build a new stadium by 1999 and the NFL promised the city a team. That team could be an expansion team or a relocated team. This was the birth of the Baltimore Ravens. And in 1999 the expansion era of the Cleveland Browns began.

The 1999-2019 Cleveland Browns were terrible and Browns fans felt the sting even worse when the Ravens won 2 Super Bowls in 2000 and 2012 respectively.  But don’t forget that Art Modell did sell the majority ownership of the Ravens to Steve Biscotti in 1999. That move freed up the capital to field the 2000 Super Bowl team. His whole reason for moving the team from Cleveland was so he didn’t have to sell the team. And he ended up selling it anyway.

Today in 2024 most people involved with the move are no longer with us. A new stadium in Cleveland is being debated again. But this time it is different than it was in 1995. The team’s owner Jimmy Haslam is currently having an open dialogue with the city, state, and county officials. That wasn’t happening in 1995. Progress is being made on the current stadium situation in Cleveland, and a mutually beneficial outcome is expected between the Browns and the city of Cleveland. 29 years ago, Art Modell could have been more open and honest to the city of Cleveland on what he wanted and needed to stay. Instead, he made a public relations stunt to sabotage a county ballot initiative the day before the vote. Obviously, it didn’t work. He was a mediocre NFL owner at best. He fired 3 head coaches that have won more than 200 games and have hall of fame credentials. Paul Brown, Marty Schottenheimer, and Bill Belichick were all fired by Art Modell. There have been publicity campaigns to get him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. But for all the reasons I just listed, it will never happen and rightfully so.


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