A federal investigation into fraudulent practices inside his truck-stop company has Browns owner Jimmy Haslam apologizing to Cleveland fans for being a distraction.
The first-year owner, who is cooperating with authorities who are looking into charges that some of his employees were involved in a scheme that withheld rebates to customers to boost profits, told Browns fans at a scholar-athlete banquet on Monday night that he was sorry for being a distraction.
“I apologize to the city of Cleveland, Northeastern Ohio and all Browns fans because the last thing we ever wanted to do as a new owner was detract from football and the Browns and just what a great football area this is, and so I apologize for that,” Haslam said, per the Associated Press. “We feel badly about it and we're very comfortable we'll work through this situation.”
After a brief speech, Haslam did not take any questions during a meeting with local media members.
The FBI recently released a 120-page affidavit that alleged members of Pilot's sales team deliberately withheld rebates to boost profits. Haslam said he was not aware that any of his employees were involved in such practices and called the allegations “sickening.”
“The important thing is to get it right,” Haslam said. “I'd like to get it wrapped up by the end of the month, but if it takes until early June, early July, we're going to get the numbers right and if we owe X, Y, Z trucking company, we'll write them a check on the spot.”
The NFL has no plans to force Haslam to give up control of the Browns. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the day before last month’s draft that he and the league were unaware of the FBI probe because the federal agency had kept the investigation secret until the announcement of the charges was made.
Haslam said he was excited about the upcoming season.
“I want to win because we're competitive and anybody that's competitive wants to win, but having been in this area, I want to win more for you all, the fans of Cleveland, because I've never seen fan support like this in the Cleveland area,” he said. “It's incredible. I pledge to you we're going to do everything we possibly can to bring a winner to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio because this area deserves it.”