Thursday, September 6, 2012

Modell's legacy will be NFL on TV and moving the Browns


The late Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell will always be remembered for moving the Browns to Baltimore.

Modell, who owned the Browns from 1961-1995, never seemed to completely overcome the sadness he felt about moving the team according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

At the time of his death, he was still public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland, the city he loved. After moving to Baltimore, Modell was never able to return here because of death threats. For a time, he was forced to travel with two armed bodyguards.

"I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move," he said in 1999. "The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me.''

All of Modell's extensive accomplishments in the NFL and with the Browns are overshadowed in Cleveland by the move.
"This has been a very, very tough road for my family and me," Modell said back in 1996. "I leave my heart and part of my soul in Cleveland. But frankly, it came down to a simple proposition: I had no choice."

He stated publicly that he had no regrets, but in private moments with Browns beat writers who often visited his owners' suite in Baltimore, he often made it clear he wished things could have been different.

Ken Murray of the Baltimore Sun reports that Bills owner Ralph Wilson said, “I think Art's major accomplishment was in broadcasting.  He was very sharp in that field. He knew the officials, the presidents of the networks."

“Art always took the position, we didn't want to overplay our hand with the networks: ‘Hey, we can't push them to the wall and just pound them for every nickel. They're our partners.' Art was right; they are our partners. That was the way he operated.”

Prior to joining the NFL, Modell had formed his own television production company. In 1961, when the league persuaded Congress to pass a law permitting sports leagues to market their broadcast rights without fear of antitrust prosecution, Modell had the NFL in position to cut their own lucrative deals.

The league soon was signing multimillion-dollar broadcast deals and adding expansion teams. Over 31 years of negotiations, Modell watched the TV pot grow to astronomical heights. His final deal in 1990 was for four years and $3.6 billion from four networks. Altogether, the TV contracts he negotiated were worth more than $8 billion to the NFL, the richest in sports.

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