On Friday, Jimmy Haslam III, the new owner of the Browns, held his first press conference, and he’s already winning fans over. Haslam preached about bringing winning football back to Cleveland, keeping the team in Cleveland, and his new loyalty to this team, rather than the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Haslam was seen on the practice field in Berea wearing a Browns t-shirt and Browns shorts. At his press conference, he showed his loyalty by wearing an orange tie and Browns pin. Haslam won’t officially take over ownership of the team until sometime around October, but he’s clearly ready to bring a winner back to Cleveland.
When rumors started swirling about the Browns being sold, flashbacks from 1995 haunted most Cleveland fans. Would the Browns stay or go? Haslam wasted no time answering that question.
“I know there are some people who think that maybe we might want to move the team out of Cleveland and I can assure you there is zero chance of that happening,” he said.
With that simple statement, Haslam started to gain some appreciation from the fans.
Another issue Browns fans were worried about, was his loyalty to the Steelers. Prior to buying the Browns, he was a minority owner of the Steelers and called himself a “1,000 percent” Steelers fan. Obviously, if that were still the case, it wouldn’t sit well with Cleveland fans. However, Haslam being a Steelers fan is no longer an issue.
“Just a little history, we’ve had a relationship with that other team down the road that wears black and gold that we used to be 1,000 percent for, but we’re not anymore,” he said. “I took my Steelers watch off yesterday, put my Browns watch on today and we’re fired up.”
Haslam said he’s impressed with the way Browns fans are so loyal to their team. Clevelanders live and breathe Browns football. Despite all of the disappointments, fans here always believe that the Browns are on the brink of greatness. That has made Haslam not only a fan, but a believer as well.
“Everybody is fired up and excited about football and when people say, ‘Why the Cleveland Browns?’ That’s why we say it, because the excitement and the importance of football, the Browns to this community is immense and we’re all about that. It’s all about the orange and brown, all about the Browns,” Haslam said.
Haslam is taking over for an owner that didn’t interact with the fans. Lerner didn’t watch all of the games, and he was never seen at practice. Haslam said he wants to be seen in the public, wants to get to know the fans, and wants to be hands-on with his new team.
“I’ve thought about the first exhibition game,” he said. “Why don’t we just sit in the stands rather than sit in the owner’s box and see what the facility feels like sitting as a quote ‘regular fan’ so we’ll be out there and available.”
Haslam said he sees a lot of potential on the roster. He wouldn’t discuss possible personnel changes until he officially takes over the team, however, he said winning football will come back to Cleveland. It’s been long overdue, but he said he’s up for the challenge.
“The Haslam family is 100 percent committed to making the Cleveland Browns a winner again. We’re going to devote whatever time necessary it takes to get things right here in Cleveland and I believe they’re on the right path now. We’re going to take whatever steps necessary to bring winning football back to Cleveland.”
Will Haslam be able to follow through with all of this? Only time will tell. However, one thing is for certain. Haslam is now a “1,000 percent” fan of not only Cleveland Browns football, but the city of Cleveland, as well.