Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has faced uncertain times since the FBI and IRS raided the Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters of Pilot Flying J on April 15.
Haslam has once again sought to bring some clarity to at least part of the situation — his future with the Browns.
A spokesman for Haslam said Monday that Haslam has no plans to sell the franchise despite the legal troubles with Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest truck stop company where he is CEO.
In a story published Sunday on the ESPN Cleveland website, Haslam said he intends to own the Browns “for a long time.”
And in a statement issued Monday, Pilot Flying J spokesman Tom Ingram said, “We expect no change in Mr. Haslam’s relationship with the NFL and/or his ownership of the Browns.”
FBI agents say transcripts of secretly recorded calls among Pilot Flying J employees reveal a scheme to defraud trucking companies of fuel rebates, and five members of the sales staff at the nation’s largest diesel retailer have pleaded guilty to fraud.
Haslam has said he was unaware of the scheme.
At least 18 trucking companies have field civil lawsuits against Pilot Flying J, and it’s unknown if Haslam will face a criminal indictment.
Speculation over Haslam’s future with the Browns increased recently after the Wall Street Journal reported Pilot Flying J had nearly doubled its debt to $4 billion.
But in the interview with ESPN Cleveland, he pointed to steps taken by the Browns organization as signs he’s committed to the franchise.
“Since October, we put together a completely new front office, hired a new head coach with two really good coordinators, sold naming rights to the stadium, and went through free agency and the draft,” Haslam said. “We’ve spent $5 million remodeling (team headquarters in) Berea. And we’re working on an upwards of $100 million remodeling of the stadium. We’ve been very committed to turning this franchise around.”
Jersey instead of pallbearers
The Browns are giving a jersey to the family of a fan who asked for six players to serve as pallbearers at his funeral.
Scott E. Entsminger, 55, of Mansfield died Thursday at his home. In his obituary in the Columbus Dispatch, Entsminger, a lifelong Browns fan, requested “six Cleveland Browns pallbearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”
Browns spokesman Zak Gilbert said the team contacted Entsminger’s widow, Pat, and found out that his favorite player was Hall of Famer Lou Groza. The team will present a Groza No. 76 jersey with Entsminger’s name on the back to the family today.
Entsminger’s obituary also said he “wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team.”