In one move, Art Modell righted one of the biggest wrongs in NFL history and caused one of the biggest wrongs in NFL history. That movie was the 1996 franchise move that turned the Cleveland Browns into the Baltimore Ravens. When Robert Irsay took the Baltimore Colts and moved them to Indianapolis, he took away one of the most cherished and decorated football programs in the National Football League. When he moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, he righted that wrong while simultaneously taking one of the OTHER original NFL teams from their home, creating a second void. Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Cleveland all have NFL teams, but the move turned Art Modell from a Cleveland hero into a pariah. Former Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell is dead at 87.
Modell tried for years to get a new football stadium to keep the Browns in Cleveland, but he couldn’t get city leadership to budge even though they built new baseball and basketball facilities. Hence, when Baltimore offered him a chance to move, he took it. Granted, Cleveland eventually got their Browns back in the form of an expansion team that kept the old team’s records, name, and history, but it’s not quite the same when you consider the fact that the tough-guy Ravens would go on to win an NFL Championship in Super Bowl XXXV (to match the one Cleveland won in 1964).
Modell was also influential behind the scenes, too. He was influential in the development of Monday Night Football in 1970, and when he hired Ozzie Newsome to run his Ravens, he broke the NFL’s general manager color barrier. It’s a sure thing he’ll end up in the Professional Football Hall of Fame one day, but it’s a matter of Clevelanders forgetting old grudges.
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