The long and winding road that has led nowhere good for the Browns has been chronicled extensively by Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com. One specific aspect of the article raises eyebrows when it comes to the kind of casual racial stereotyping that would cause many in the modern climate to complain about political correctness.
But many in the Browns organization were offended by the nickname that owner Jimmy Haslam applied to former V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown. Per Wickersham, Haslam called Brown “Obama.”
“Haslam laughed at the nickname,” Wickersham writes, “but it offended many in the building as racial stereotyping — a sentiment that became even more amplified in 2018 after a secret recording of Mark Hazelwood, a person close to Haslam and a former president at Pilot [Flying J], was made public. On the recording, Hazelwood used a racial slur to describe football fans in a meeting of Pilot executives at which Haslam said he wasn’t present.”
Wickersham reports that Brown, who declined to comment on the matter to Wickersham, “didn’t think Haslam was being disrespectful with the Obama nickname, even if it caused others to cringe.” (Brown, like Barack Obama, attended Harvard Law School.)
Apart from the obvious racial connection, which is the obvious root of the cringing, the use of the nickname seems flat-out odd, given that Haslam’s personal politics would cause him to not hold the 44th President in high regard. Why would Haslam compare a key and trusted employee to someone about whom Haslam surely spent eight years griping?
While this specific wrinkle falls low on the list of things that have gone wrong for the Browns in recent years, it provides more proof that, indeed, there’s a chance that current ownership simply doesn’t get it.