Embattled Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, whose “first love” family-owned business currently is embroiled in a significant federal investigation, isn’t hiding under the bed. To his credit, Haslam showed up Tuesday night for the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s 25th annual scholar-athlete banquet.
According to the Associated Press, Haslam expressed regret for the situation involving Pilot Flying J, a national truck-stop company that allegedly shortchanged rebates and discounts owed to trucking-company customers deemed to unsophisticated to notice.
“I apologize to the City of Cleveland, Northeastern Ohio and all Browns fans because the last thing we ever wanted to do as a new owner was detract from football and the Browns and just what a great football area this is, and so I apologize for that,” Haslam said. “We feel badly about it and we’re very comfortable we’ll work through this situation.”
Haslam answered no questions from the media, which wanted to know among other things what Haslam knew about allegedly fraudulent practices. His refusal to answer inquiries means he’s being advised by lawyers to not speak extemporaneously on the situation — and that he’s heeding the advice.
Still, the company’s strategy includes paying money to customers who are owed it, which could be interpreted as an implicit admission that the company was in the wrong.
“The important thing is to get it right,” Haslam said. “I’d like to get it wrapped up by the end of the month, but if it takes until early June, early July, we’re going to get the numbers right and if we owe X, Y, Z trucking company, we’ll write them a check on the spot.”
The criminal investigation surely will take much longer, as will the civil lawsuits filed in the wake of the release of a 120-page affidavit containing detailed evidence of secretly-recorded meetings and conversations suggesting that wrongdoing occurred.