CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Late Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Voting will take place this weekend in New Orleans and it’s expected to be a close call as to whether or not he will be elected to football’s sacred hall which resides 45 minutes down I-77 in Canton, Ohio.
Modell passed away Sept. 6, 2012. His death revived his candidacy – for a posthumous induction.
Although he was among those instrumental in bringing former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and the TV networks together, Modell’s true NFL legacy isn’t television, Monday Night Football or even helping with the AFL-NFL merger.
Not by a long shot.
The moment that then Maryland governor Parris Glendening stood in front of a crowd on a bright sunny day in downtown Baltimore on Nov. 6, 1995, held up a stack of papers and declared, “We have a signed contract at hand, the Browns are indeed coming to Baltimore,” all bets were off.
What took place in secret on private jet parked on a runway and then at that podium in the fall of 1995 transcended the NFL and reverberated throughout the NBA, NHL and MLB.
“Frankly, it came down to a simple proposition, I had no choice,” Modell claimed.
The edict was set for cities and states nationwide.
You will build it, pay for it or we will move.
If the Browns could leave Cleveland, no team is sacred or safe.
And so a building boom of brand new stadiums, ballparks and arenas commenced around the country.
To this day, teams continue to get new taxpayer funded homes or they move.
Seattle lost the Super Sonics to Oklahoma City but appear to be getting them back by stealing the Kings from Sacramento. Meanwhile NHL franchises have been moving like a merry go round.
Major League Baseball has been fortunate in avoiding recent relocation of teams because of a bevy of brand new ballparks.
Since the Browns became the Baltimore Ravens following the 1995 season, 16 brand new NFL only stadiums opened (excluding expansion to Carolina and Jacksonville in 1996 and Houston in 2002).
5 other NFL stadiums have been completely renovated, 2 more are in line for renovations (Rams and Bills) and the Vikings and 49ers have new stadiums under construction.
The Panthers have put Charlotte and North Carolina on notice that they want their stadium renovated. The Atlanta Falcons want the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992 and has been upgraded several times, replaced.
Miami, which was just bilked by the Marlins for a new ballpark which could end up costing over $1 billion to finance, is being pressured by the Dolphins to redo Sun Life Stadium. The NFL is holding a sledgehammer over the team and city to get it done before receiving another Super Bowl in South Florida.
The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers still have unresolved stadium issues but all of the stadium ‘concerns’ will be resolved because the NFL has the ultimate bargaining chip to hold over all 5 cities – Los Angeles.
The relocation of the Raiders back to Oakland and the Rams to St. Louis left L.A. without pro football since 1995 but was the best thing to happen to the NFL besides Modell’s despicable defection.
Having the 2nd largest TV market vacant with a pair of stadium plans on standby has been the catalyst for getting new stadiums built.
That is Modell’s legacy and what he should be remembered for – ensuring that billionaires have the construction or remodeling of their facilities funded by it’s fans through taxes and be virtually free of charge for them to use.
Regardless of the local politics involved, Modell’s lies, deceit and poor business practices have been well documented and are undeniable.
Modell was so incompetent as an owner that even after he ripped the heart out of northeast Ohio by stealing the Browns so he could get a brand new sweetheart stadium lease in Baltimore, he still had to sell the Ravens because he went broke – again.
That alone makes him not hall of fame worthy as an owner.
But if the voters consider holding loyal fans and municipalities hostage as worthy of the ultimate honor, then Modell is definitely a hall of famer.
In fact he should be the head of the class since it’s now the NFL’s business model.
The only city where he should be honored is Baltimore where the team that he used to own and was forced to sell will appear in it’s second Super Bowl since leaving Cleveland in shambles.