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Moments of Heartbreak: Cleveland Browns – The Move

Who are the Cleveland Browns?

The Browns were a charter member of All American Football League (AAFC) and were founded in 1945 by Arthur B. McBride and then coach Paul Brown. In the four year history of the AAFC (1945-1949), the Browns dominated and won the championship in each of the 4 seasons of the AAFC’s existence. In 1950, The Brown’s joined the National Football League where they won a championship in their first year in the NFL. They also won championships in 1954, 1955, and 1964. More impressive is that they played in the championship game in their league every season for the first 10 seasons of their existence, something no other team has ever done.

In 1961, the Browns had a change in ownership as Art Modell, an American businessman and entrepreneur, bought the Browns franchise. Modell immediately began to put his own touches on the franchise, starting with firing long time successful coach Paul Brown. The same coach that had sent the team to 10 straight championships and won 7 of those. Over the next 30 years, with Modell at the helm, the Browns have not won a league title. They made playoff appearances in just 14 season over those 30 years.

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Problems with Cleveland Municipal Stadium

In 1971, the city of Cleveland was having a tough time coming up with the money necessary to maintain and run the Municipal Stadium. Modell stepped in an offered take over the maintenance and management of the building for $1 in rent a year. Modell then subleased the stadium to the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns. For all intensive purposes, Modell was the new landlord of Municipal Stadium.

To increase revenue, Modell constructed suites in the stadium, however, he did not share this extra revenue with the Indians. This obviously rubbed the Indians organization the wrong way. Modell argued that because he was the one that had financed them and was paying high interest rates, that there was no revenue to share. Because of their dissatisfaction with Modell and not sharing revenue from the suites, the Indians persuade the city of Cleveland to fund a new ball park for them to play in, which became known as Jacobs Field (later renamed to Progressive Field).

In 1994, the Cleveland Indians officially moved to Jacobs Field. Interestingly enough, Modell believed that his revenues would not take a hit with the Indians moving to their own stadium and even participated in the project. His assumptions turned out to be incorrect and lost about 21 million between 1993 and 1994 alone. Despite being very outspoken in the past about teams relocating, including when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis and when the Oakland Raiders moved to LA, Modell seemed ready to move the Browns.

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