What an absolute mess.
Cleveland Browns fans received more bad news last week. New Browns owner, James Haslam III‘s multi-billion dollar company Pilot Flying J, is under serious investigation by the FBI and IRS for rebate fraud. A 120-page FBI affidavit clearly states that Haslam was fully involved and is in deep water.
Can’t we just catch a break? Why do bad things happen to Cleveland sports fans?
Based off of all rumors and stories floating around, this isn’t going to end well for the Tennessee native. The resilience of Browns fans everywhere must once again overcome another negative situation. This is yet another knock to the Cleveland faithful that they did not deserve. What gives in this town?
Employees of the largest diesel fuel supplier in the United States turned on the billionaire Haslam and “spilled the beans” on the withholding of the rebates to trucking companies. What does this mean for the brown-and-orange faithful across the globe?
The closest comparison to the now untrustworthy Haslam is Bruce McNall, the former owner of the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL. In December of 1993, McNall pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and conspiracy. He was sentenced to just under six years in prison and put the Kings in dire financial straits.
McNall sold his controlling interest and the Kings went bankrupt in 1995. As of now, the NFL has no plans to force Haslam to sell the historic franchise.
The best-case scenario fans can hope and pray for is a class action law suit where Haslam will have to shell out an ungodly amount of cash to the victimized trucking companies. Just today, Pilot Flying J hired a highly-regarded attorney named Aubrey Harwell, Jr. to represent the fire and scrutiny that’s coming. This is the same Harwell that couldn’t save former San Francisco 49ers owner, Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. from federal charges of extortion and attempting to acquire a gambling license in 1999.
The worse-case scenario would be jail time for Haslam and his fellow managers that knew about the scheme this entire time. Either way, Pilot Flying J is sure to lose a large part of their customer base for its unethical actions. The infrastructure of the mega-giant truck stop company could come tumbling down.
The Cleveland fan base must try to stay positive during this difficult time. We all must let the whole situation sort itself out and let the law decide. Browns fans are extremely tough and loyal.
Competitively, this is an exciting time for the team and followers. Personnel in many areas have been upgraded, the NFL Draft is in three days, and the new schedule poses hope for a season of more than eight wins. The Browns could be very driven in 2013.
Ryan Ruiz – Cleveland Browns Writer. Please Follow Me on Twitter @ryanpruiz24