BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner says there is a “positive feeling” and “optimism” surrounding the team as the players and coaches start training camp on Thursday.
Banner cited high ticket sales and growing partnerships with companies in the Cleveland community as reasons for the increased optimism in Berea.
“We’ve sold more season tickets than the Browns have sold since at least the return here, more seats, more club seats, more new marketing partnerships,” Banner said. “There’s a lot of optimism and positive feelings about where the franchise is heading, and I think it started with (Jimmy Haslam) taking over leading the team, the vision he had and then, the team we’ve put around him.”
During his Wednesday morning press conference, Banner quelled inquiries that the Browns could be put up for sale by owner Jimmy Haslam.
Banner’s response was in reference to the question of whether Haslam would sell the team because of the federal investigation into an alleged rebate scheme at his family’s company, Pilot Flying J, as well as the subsequent lawsuits filed by trucking companies after the issue came to light.
“We’re operating the team exactly as we would, whether this had happened or not,” Banner said. “Jimmy’s here, is incredibly supportive and is a huge asset to us. I think he’s made it clear and I’ve tried to make it clear without any ambiguity at all, he’s not going to sell the team. I understand that until this thing plays itself out, it’s a legitimate question.
“It really hasn’t affected us at all. We have a team that we’ve put together of really, really good people. Whether we’re talking the coaching staff, the business side, even our foundation work, we’re really excited about the team we’ve put together. Jimmy really had a vision, and spoke the first time he was here about creating a phenomenal fan experience and being focused on winning as many games as we can.”
Since Pilot Flying J’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., was raided by federal investigators on April 15, after a two-year undercover investigation into the alleged rebate scheme, Banner said Haslam has been “extremely open.”
“I know him; I have a lot of confidence in him,” Banner said. “I’ve had a chance to get to know Jimmy. We talked about how we were going to run the Browns. A focus of his was doing things the right way, doing things with integrity from the first moments I met him. It certainly wasn’t anything I anticipated, but I felt comfortable with his responses.
“I think the league feels really good about how things are going, but they have a wait-and-see attitude as well. We’ll see what happens and then, we’ll go from there. I think they feel very good about Jimmy. They have a lot of belief in him. He’s been very open and transparent to them, and I think they feel confident in the way they see him leading and the team that we’ve all put together to operate things.”