Big distraction for Browns, owner

Big distraction for Browns, owner
May 17, 2013, 2:30 am
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When we’re talking off-field distractions, it’s usually regarding a player, usually something of a legal nature. In the case of the Browns, there is a large off-field distraction — and it is of a legal nature — but it’s about the owner.

Jimmy Haslam’s family business, Pilot Flying J, the nationwide truck-stop operator, is being investigated for alleged fraud. The FBI is looking into allegations that Pilot Flying J cheated some trucking companies out of rebates they had earned. The company is facing five lawsuits.

With such serious business going on, Haslam is forced to say things like this: “I remain just as much if not more excited about the Browns and the long-term opportunity here. … This is a blip. It may be a substantial blip, but it in no way jeopardizes our ownership of the Browns, No. 1, or our commitment to the Browns.”

An owner’s commitment to his team should never be in question. When he has to reaffirm it, that should definitely qualify as a distraction — which Haslam will acknowledge.

“We are just as committed and just as excited about the Browns as we ever have been,” Haslam said. “This (investigation) has been a little bit of a distraction, obviously, the past few weeks, but things are starting to settle down. I’m looking forward to spending time in Cleveland.”

You would also be looking forward to being able to think about your football team — and deal with fun stuff like picking out new uniforms — if the alternative were to sit around and worry about what the FBI was finding out about your company.