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NFL Icon Art Modell Passes Away

In Baltimore he is loved. In Cleveland he is loathed. For NFL fans elsewhere, he is mostly respected, I believe. Art Modell, the pioneer who helped merge the NFL and AFL has passed away at the age of 87 his family announced.

It was 1996 when after months, and years of trying to squeeze a new stadium out of Clevlanders that Modell took his Browns to Baltimore which ironically lost the Colts years before when they moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.

Modell, who led the NFL to many new ideas and break out moments like Monday Night football and labor deals, never made it to the Hall Of Fame while he was alive. He was a finalist in 2001 and made it to the semifinals of the selection process seven times after that.

I remember when his “new” Baltimore team made their first trip back to Cleveland after the NFL awarded the city an expansion franchise to replace the “old” Browns. Modell had to stay back in Baltimore and got death threats if memory serves me right. He was HATED in Cleveland.

Modell and a group of friends purchased the Browns back in 1961 for the tidy price of 4 million dollars. At the time Modell claimed the price was “excessive.” He later sold his team to Steve Bisciotti who purchased a minority share in 2001 and later the entire team except for 1% that Modell retained. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001 beating up on the New York Giants.

Modell’s contributions are many including all the money he helped raise and donated to civic causes outside of football. As for Football he led the negotiations bringing Monday Night Football to birth. Ironically the first MNF game was the New York Jets at Cleveland. He also was instrumental in labor negotiations and TV contracts and many other aspects of the NFL business.

Modell’s family says he died of natural causes.

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