Amid reports that the NFL and the Browns have a plan in place if owner Jimmy Haslam is indicted, the plan is there is no plan.
According to WEWS-TV in Cleveland, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there’s “no plan in place” if Haslam faces formal charges arising from customer rebate fraud at Pilot Flying J, the family-owned company Haslam runs.
ESPN Cleveland has reported that the NFL and the Browns have agreed that Haslam will continue to own the Browns through the legal process, if/when he’s indicted. In contrast, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo stepped down once he was indicted on federal charges in 1999.
“We are staying in close contact with the NFL during the investigation,” Pilot Flying J spokesman Tom Ingram told WEWS. “We expect no change in Mr. Haslam’s relationship with the NFL and/or his ownership of the Browns. Any other statement is unfounded media guessing.”
But Ingram’s statement meshes with the ESPN Cleveland report; if Haslam is indicted, he’ll continue to own the Browns.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on Haslam’s part — and maybe the NFL doesn’t want to commit to anything until it gets a chance to read the indictment, if an indictment comes.
Five Pilot Flying J executives have pleaded guilty in connection with the customer rebate scam. At least one of the guilty pleas states that “senior management” was aware of the fraudulent conduct. Haslam has at all times denied knowledge of the wrongdoing.