Setting the record straight on Modell

By Sean McClelland

Staff Writer

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported this week that Art Modell had been offered a new stadium long before uprooting the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, where they became the Ravens in 1996.

It’s what many have contended all along, but now there’s overwhelming evidence.

Two sources, including George Forbes, Cleveland’s former city council president, and Tim Hagan, a county commissioner, insist this is what happened, debunking the popular theory that Modell had been painted into a corner and forced to relocate.

Forbes, a fixture in Cleveland politics for decades, told the newspaper he sat on this information until now partly because Modell had been his friend.

The narrative that Modell bolted Cleveland because nobody would build him a stadium has been trumpeted ad nauseam since his recent death, mainly by family members and Ravens employees.

It sounds better than saying he left because he was the only NFL owner not shrewd enough to make money and because he saw Baltimore as his golden parachute/lottery ticket.

I never believed Modell’s political-stonewalling story mainly because I never believed any civic leader in his right mind would risk fumbling away an NFL franchise, especially one that had been supported so well in good times and bad, almost like no other.

No elected official in a football-mad town like Cleveland could afford to have a cavalier attitude toward losing the Browns, and now we know that wasn’t the case at high levels of government.

Let this be the final word on the subject: Modell did what he wanted to do, not what he had to do. There’s a huge difference.

Armed with this knowledge, Browns fans can continue eternally despising Modell with a clear conscience as he rests in peace.

And NFL historians can get busy revising the history of one of the league’s darkest chapters.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2408 or

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