A feature story that was published by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham last month painted Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam in a negative light, and it is clear Haslam is not happy about the piece.
According to Michael Smith of Sports Business Daily, a company that is run by Haslam called Pilot Flying J has ended its partnership with ESPN two years into a four-year deal. The agreement spanned multiple platforms and included extensive advertising with the SEC Network, which is owned by ESPN. Pilot Flying J was considered the SEC’s official travel center and was endorsed by well-known ESPN personalities Paul Finebaum and Laura Rutledge.
Smith reports that the deal between ESPN and Pilot Flying J is believed to be worth in the low seven figures annually, and the two sides are negotiating a way to terminate it.
Wickersham’s story shed light on the dysfunction that has become a theme within the Browns organization since Haslam and his wife Dee bought the team in 2012. One tidbit claimed the owners admitted privately that they have gotten in over their heads. Another aside detailed how Cleveland’s marketing team made an embarrassing mistake while trying to motivate employees to turn the losing culture around.
The Browns are coming off a promising season in which Baker Mayfield gave fans hope that he can be a franchise quarterback, and the Haslams would probably prefer to hear more about that and less about their shortcomings.