We’re a week away from the NFL Draft, but despite that there is a bigger story quickly developing out of Cleveland. New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is being investigated by the FBI, who claim the trucking mogul has knowingly been engaged in fraud for years now and are trying to take him down. The question that has been floating around now is what this means for Haslam’s future as an NFL owner, as being investigated by the FBI isn’t what the league likes to portray in it’s owners.
According to ESPN, the FBI firmly believes that Haslam was knowingly involved in fraud in order to increase profits and increase Haslam’s wealth:
Special Agent Robert H. Root alleged a “conspiracy and scheme to defraud executed by various Pilot employees to deceptively withhold diesel fuel price rebates and discounts from Pilot customers … for the dual purposes of increasing the profitability of Pilot and increasing the diesel sales commissions of the Pilot employees participating in the fraud.”
The reason the NFL is needing to get involved is not only do they have an owner being investigated by the federal government, but if the allegations are true and Halsm defrauded his employees, he turned around and used that money to purchase the Browns, something he did last August. As much as they need to step in, Ed Werder said on SportsCenter Friday morning that the NFL is not going to ask Haslam to step aside at this moment and is “downplaying” the situation. This is the obvious move, as all the facts aren’t in and this is a situation where rash decisions are detrimental to the judicial process.
But for the time being, Haslam must be presumed innocent until he’s proven guilty. However, the case is just another distraction in a long line of disappointments for Browns fans. Haslam’s arrival was looking like a changing of the guard which would lead the Browns out of their darks and terrible days of the past.
Now, the Browns are having to deal with perhaps their worst disappointment to date, as turning in losing seasons is one thing and having an owner be the subject of a massive FBI investigation is another. Hopefully, Haslam is innocent, but that’s something we likely won’t know for some time.