Art Modell left Cleveland yesterday being called a thief in the night.
He arrived in Baltimore to chants of "Art, Art, Art."
Cleveland Browns owner, who
announced he's moving the team to Baltimore after spending 35 years in
"It was an agonizing moment. Terrible. I didn't want to dance on the grave
of the people in Cleveland," Mr. Modell said in an interview after his news
"Still, I was re-enforced by the reception I got [in Baltimore]. At the
luncheon [afterward], the business and political people were genuine in their
welcome, which I'm really grateful for. They really opened up their hearts to
He said the vilification he's getting in Cleveland isn't fair.
"I hear they're saying I'm like a thief in the night," Mr. Modell said.
"My gosh, they've had six years to do something. They spent $650 million for a
baseball park, a basketball arena and a rock and roll museum and a science
museum, and all I wanted to do is get inside plumbing.
"It's very tough. I don't want to read the papers. I don't want anyone to
tell me what's in the papers. But it's vicious, and their anger is directed at
the wrong person. It should be at their community leaders, the business and
"But I'm an easy scapegoat."
Mr. Modell has been criticized in Cleveland for not saying publicly what he
needed to stay, but said he'd been telling the city since 1989 that he had
problems with Cleveland Stadium.
(Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White said yesterday that Mr. Modell first
presented the city a renovation plan in December 1994.)
"We sent them volumes and volumes of information that the league has
assembled about what other teams are getting," Mr. Modell said. "That should
have been enough of a guideline. They haven't matched anything."
He said things got worse when the baseball stadium and basketball arena
"A big promise was made. They said, 'Look, we're taking care of Gateway
[baseball and basketball]. You're next. You'll be taken care of.' Right.
"I kept asking. I kept waiting. Three suits went out of style, and I'm
still waiting," he said.
Whether it was a new stadium or a refurbished one, Mr. Modell said he
needed a stadium with what he called "revenue streams."
"Revenue is the name of the game. I couldn't make it otherwise. I couldn't
make it here without revenues. That's what happening in our league. Our league
has changed considerably," he said.
When asked why he made the move this year and not last year, Mr. Modell
said the problem was the continued salary escalation.
"There's been enormous, enormous salary and bonuses to players. Our player
costs have spiraled. The salary cap is not working. When [Dallas Cowboys
owner] Jerry Jones has to sign Deion Sanders, he just opens up his checkbook.
When I signed Andre Rison, I had to scrounge around looking for a bank to loan
me the money," he said.
Mr. Modell also said he did a lot for Cleveland.
"I gave them my life there, 35 years," he said. "I put more than I should
have into that community, more than most people. More than 99 percent of the
people. I saved the Cleveland Indians from going to New Orleans. I got Steve
O'Neill to buy it to keep the Indians in town."
Mr. Modell also said he came to Baltimore without getting any guarantees
or upfront money.
"I don't get one nickel out of the PSLs [permanent seat licenses]," he
said. Funds from seat licenses can cover only expenses related to the Browns'
Asked why he didn't demand guarantees, Mr. Modell said: "Because I have
confidence in my product, my ability to market our product. We've done it for
years in Cleveland. We'll do it here and then some."
Mr. Modell is buying out former minority partner Bob Gries, but he said
it's on a 10-year payout starting in 1997. He said there's no bank involved.
He declined to say how much he paid Mr. Gries.
Mr. Modell said he isn't immediately cutting his ties to Cleveland.
"We're not selling our home. We're going to come down here. We're gong to
establish residence here. Let's see what plays out in the next couple of
years, although eventually, we will [sell]. We can't keep two homes," he said.
He added: "We're anxiously awaiting to settle down here. I've told the
governor and mayor we'll become citizens of Baltimore."