How hard would it be to move the Browns?
It wouldn’t be easy to move the Browns. Ohio is a swing state that is often pivotal in deciding Presidential elections, and an angry Ohio Congressional delegation is not what the NFL needs.
However, this isn’t going to be like 1995. Cleveland’s fan base has been eroded by years of exposure to bad teams and continual soap operas from the Haslams. The political support in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the State of Ohio for a massive investment in a new stadium or at least a huge upgrade may not be there like it was 28 years ago.
There’s no polite way to say this, but our fan base has been fooled multiple times. Time and again, an apparently stable team has fallen apart and been taken away from Cleveland. Fans may need to be reminded about how many franchises the city has lost, lest we get too overconfident.
There was the NFL Cleveland Indians with superstar Jim Thorpe, but they went bankrupt in 1921 when Thorpe got injured and could not play. The 1924 Cleveland Bulldogs were World Champions but they moved to Detroit and then were merged with the New York Giants.
The Cleveland Rams were World Champions in 1945 and promptly pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles and became vastly more profitable. Most of us do remember the Browns that played from 1946 to 1994 and then moved to Baltimore under the guidance of Art Modell. There were at least four Cleveland teams of historical importance (plus a few more), three of which won World Championships, only to move out of town when a lucrative deal came along.
How sure are we that this fifth team and the second incarnation of the Browns, is now immovable, and why do we feel that way? Is it the love from Commissioner Goodell? More likely, Goodell is the guy sharpening the axe.
What about the lawyers for the City of Cleveland? According to local folklore, they have created an indestructible lease agreement that completely bonds the Browns for all time. Well, no, it expires after 2028. It’s coming up. They did try to write it so that the team can not just pay off the remaining years on the contract and leave early, but that has never been tested in court.
Anyway, the point is not to rag on the Haslam family, since they have done great things for the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio. They are true philanthropists and have done a great job supporting the community with charitable donations and serving on foundations that serve social causes and the like. Let’s not even question that.
The salient point is that teams have moved away from Cleveland when owners have been given the chance to legally make large profits. Fans may resent it, but we really should not be shocked that it happens.
Let’s all hope that the Haslams succeed brilliantly, transform the Browns into the most valuable team in the NFL, win multiple Super Bowls, and get a new stadium built with the cooperation of the City of Cleveland. That’s Plan A.
This author is not as convinced as the rest of you that the Browns are on that path, and the alternate path may lead to London, England. Pip, pip! Cheerio! Rah, Browns! The Redcoats are coming!