Former Ravens and Browns owner Art Modell, a pivotal figure in the the development of the National Football League, passed away yesterday at the age of 87. As the Plain-Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot reminds us, Modell’s role in moving the Browns to Baltimore means he’s still, “public enemy no. 1”, and argues, “all of Modell’s extensive accomplishments in the NFL and with the Browns are overshadowed in Cleveland by the move.” And you thought LeBron had it tough.
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.”
“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.
A Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist, the move ultimately prevented Modell from induction despite deserving credentials. The closest he got was to the round of 15 in 2002, but didn’t receive enough votes to make it past the first cut to 10.