A Return To The Lawsuit Against Art Modell And Its Damning Context

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As the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 comes rolling to a head this weekend, the argument for or against Art Modell's induction has gripped Cleveland and Baltimore and, of course, football onlookers from more exotic climes.

The details surrounding a lawsuit brought forth by 1995 Browns season ticket holders against Modell resurfaced this morning when Cleveland Frowns published briefs from the case, handwritten notes from Bill Belichick and more than a few reminders of the contradictions that roiled our city that year. Do check out the full article, though we're running a quick review here:

"Modell and his partners ended up settling the case for $3 million, which would be water long under the bridge if there weren’t still folks in Baltimore making half-hearted, half-witted, and apparently entirely self-interested arguments that Modell suddenly deserves to be in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame now that he’s passed away. But since Modell is a finalist for the Hall for the first time since 2004, up for a vote by the Selection Committee this Saturday, the lawsuit is of profound relevance today, especially because certain of the documents filed in it set forth the case against Modell as concisely as any source that’s out there..."

The website goes on to publish the Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Modell et. al’s Motion for Summary Judgment (embedded below). "This document sets forth the pattern by which Modell lied to the people of Cleveland as well as any, and, like most summary judgment papers, cites a number of authenticated documentary exhibits as well as sworn deposition testimony," according to the writer. "This includes pages from Bill Belichick’s personal notebook, and testimony from the likes of Belichick, Modell and Al Lerner themselves."

Here's a choice quote from Modell's 1994 interview with The Plain Dealer, which kinda sums up, in hindsight, much of the shock that Clevelanders experienced:

“I’m not about to rape this city as others in this league and others have done …. You’ll never hear me say, ‘If I don’t get this I’m moving. You can go to press on that one. I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.”

And riddled throughout the published materials is insight into how guarded team leaders were being about the move. Hell, Belichick's letter states: "Publicly don’t say anything about moving the team." Cleveland Frowns homes in on the word "heist" in the article. And there's a lot of substance to that.

There are some fascinating reminders brought up in the story, which is as timely as ever this week. Here are the closing remarks:

So again, it’s not at all just about Modell’s plainly lacking qualifications for the Hall apart from the move, but just as much about his profoundly disqualifying acts in taking the Browns away to Baltimore; the worst kind of precursor to the “sports welfare for billionaires” culture that’s since become a regressive norm.

Plaintiffs' (Cleveland Browns' season ticket holders') brief in class action suit against Art Modell relati... by

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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