Council Passes Resolution Urging FirstEnergy to Relinquish Stadium Naming Rights

click to enlarge The name remains even after the scandal - FirstEnergy/FlickrCC
The name remains even after the scandal

Two weeks after its introduction, Cleveland City Council passed a resolution Monday night urging the corrupt corporate behemoth FirstEnergy to relinquish its naming rights of the pro football stadium on Lake Erie.

Sponsored by Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy, the resolution was premised on FirstEnergy's role in the passage of HB6, the largest racketeering scandal in the state of Ohio's history, plus the company's local efforts to undermine the municipally owned Cleveland Public Power.

The resolution passed 16-1 Monday night, with Ward 11 Councilman Brian Mooney the only dissenter.

In a statement provided to the media, FirstEnergy said that it has "leveraged" all its sponsorships to "do good" in the communities where it operates, and that it looked forward to enriching communities like Cleveland "for years to come." 

"FirstEnergy is extremely proud of our longstanding commitment to community involvement through philanthropic giving, employee volunteerism and sponsoring local events and organizations," the statement read. "It’s disappointing that the [Cleveland City Council] resolution overlooks the important community benefits afforded by our partnership with the Cleveland Browns, which represents so much more than just a name on the stadium."

FirstEnergy purchased the stadium naming rights for 17 years in 2013 for a reported $102 million. In the HB6 bribery scandal, the company allegedly funneled $60 million to nonprofits controlled by then-house speaker Larry Householder, who used the funds to rally support for the controversial nuclear bailout. 

Kazy provided a statement through a city council spokesperson after the resolution passed: “I don’t believe that the municipally owned stadium that the Cleveland Browns play in should bear the name of this tainted company." 

In a media session prior to the Monday meeting, Council President Blaine Griffin noted the irony that FirstEnergy stadium is itself powered by Cleveland Public Power. And he confirmed his support for the resolution.

"Sometimes you just have to make a statement." he said. "The Browns are a great corporate citizen. We love our Browns. We love our stadium. We just don't believe that a utility that intentionally tried to undermine our utility should be on that stadium."

Brian Mooney, who is currently running for judge in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, voted against the measure, When contacted by Scene, he said that he would have rather voted for legislation that actually removed the name from the stadium, not a symbolic statement from council. 

"The resolution is toothless and does not go far enough," he said.

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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