CHICAGO (92.3 The Fan) – The sale of the Cleveland Browns to Jimmy Haslam will be good for the Browns, their fans and the NFL.
Those are the thoughts from Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney after the sale of the Browns was unanimously approved Tuesday morning in Chicago.
“I think it truly is a gain for Cleveland,” Rooney said. “Jimmy is just a tremendous person and his whole family I think are really enthusiastic about taking over the Browns. I think the energy and the love of the game of football that they have I think it’s an exciting time for Cleveland, and we wish him all the best except for a couple Sundays a year.”
Rooney saw Haslam’s passion first hand as a minority owner of his team – the Steelers.
“He would be in contact with me at least once or twice a week talking about what the injury report and how do we look for this week, and he came to almost every game no matter where we played,” Rooney said. “He just has tremendous enthusiasm for football, the game of football. He’s been connected with the University of Tennessee and their program. His father played for the University of Tennessee, so his love of the game, his passion for the game makes it exciting to be around and fun to be around him. I think the Browns fans will come to enjoy that.”
Rooney knew Haslam was destined to own his own team one day. Haslam didn’t keep it a secret from the first moment that he became a minority owner of the franchise in 2008 and he was upfront with the Rooney’s the moment he began negotiations with Lerner.
“When we first started putting our deal together, he was up front about the fact that someday if he had an opportunity, he might try to do this,” Rooney said. “It wasn’t a complete surprise that he did it. We didn’t quite think it would be the Browns, but you never know in life.”
There is still the matter of Haslam divesting his 12.5 percent stake in the Steelers – the process of which is well underway.
“We have an understanding with the commissioner that Jimmy will be walled off from any Steelers business, any Steelers information,” Rooney said. “Beyond that, we’re working to place Jimmy’s stock first with some existing shareholders and then possibly with some new shareholders. So I think it’ll be a process that takes a couple of months, but I don’t think it’ll be that long of a time.”
Haslam said earlier in the day it was his hope that the matter will be formally wrapped up by the end of the year.
To many fans’ consternation, the Steelers have 6 Vince Lombardi trophies adorning their offices. The experience in Pittsburgh brought Haslam to the Browns where he is hoping to bring at least one to Cleveland.
The once storied rivalry between the two teams isn’t much of one anymore. The original Browns, now the Ravens took that to Baltimore too. Pittsburgh has won 16 of the last 17 and 22 of the last 24 meetings.
Rooney sees it as a compliment that Haslam learned under their watch in Pittsburgh.
“I do think having been around our organization, he’s got some knowledge of what goes on, how an organization makes certain kinds of decisions,” Rooney said. “So it certainly, I would think, will help him as opposed to being somebody that maybe just comes in completely fresh with no experience. He certainly was somebody who took a very active interest in our franchise and tried to understand what was going on and spent the time to learn. So I’m sure that’ll provide some benefits to him, at least in the early years.”
Haslam’s love of the game has already been seen within the NFL’s elite owners’ circle in just 1 day – unlike Lerner who pawned off his NFL duties on Mike Holmgren over the last 3 years.
“I don’t really want to make a comparison with Randy,” Rooney said. “Randy made his own contributions to the league in a quiet way, but I think Jimmy will be somebody that probably has a little more presence and he’s probably a little more out in front in terms of being an owner there. He is the kind of person I think that we want to have in the National Football League. I think the energy and enthusiasm I think he’ll bring to the job will be fun for everybody to be involved with.
“Obviously from Steelers side of it, it’s been a great rivalry and we’re looking forward to that continuing.”