"There are a lot of people in the league who oppose expansion. Having the experience of moving, I would like to explore every possibility. I think we have to look at our own first before we look at expansion," Modell said.
He and Lerner are still friends. "But it doesn't have the intensity of
friendship it once had. But it's not cold," Modell said.
Modell declined to discuss the reasons for their drifting apart. Lerner
did not respond to requests for comment.
Mutual acquaintances say the two men were surprised by the outcry provoked
by the Browns' move. Lerner, who played a crucial role in Modell's decision
and was the initial go-between for Modell and Maryland, found himself in a
place he generally shuns: the spotlight.
Lerner responded by trying to distance himself publicly from the decision.
This angered Modell, according to friends.
As for his own legacy, Modell said it has unquestionably suffered in the
controversy over the past year. In this, he finds irony: The popularity of the
Browns and their relationship with Cleveland were due in part to his
stewardship, he said.
"People will judge me as they judge me," he said.
But he holds out hope the rancor will fade.
He insists, as he has for the past year, that he was forced to move
because community leaders failed to fulfill promises to renovate his decrepit
stadium. Clevelanders say that they were making progress and that Modell never
adequately informed them of his situation or that he was considering moving.
A referendum to fund part of the work passed the day after Modell
announced he was moving the team. The league has agreed to kick in up to $48
million to help with the construction of a new stadium.
If he could do anything differently, Modell said, he would have pushed
harder in 1991 for a firm commitment from Cleveland officials on his stadium
before work began on new facilities for the American League Indians and NBA
"The only regret that I have is that I shouldn't have taken them at their
word in 1991. I took them at face value," he said.
He almost found himself in the same position in Maryland, after the NFL
had approved the move. Stadium opponents in Annapolis pushed to rescind the
"I was horrified. I had a binding agreement signed by the governor,"
The General Assembly was appeased when Modell agreed to contribute $24
million toward stadium construction. The terms of the repayment were not
specified and won't be until a full lease is negotiated. That process probably
will begin next summer.
Modell said he has been assured that he will receive some off-setting
revenue source. That could be the right to sell the stadium's name to a
corporate sponsor, he said.
"I have to have some revenue to pay for it. That's the understanding we
have, some external signs, naming rights, something," Modell said.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag said that will be the
subject of negotiations. "I owe him a real fair shake on that issue," Moag
Shortly after the stadium matter was settled, Modell, relaxing in his
Florida vacation home, came down with the blood infection. He checked into a
Florida branch of the Cleveland Clinic, a highly respected hospital he had
helped raise funds for and had served as board president.
"I was gravely ill," said Modell, who has a history of heart disease going
back a decade.
Unforgettable is what it's been
Ravens: Since announcing move, owner has endured stadium uncertainty, illness and strained friendships
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