MENTOR, Ohio -- While delivering the keynote address at the United Way of Lake County’s Annual Meeting and Awards Breakfast at LaMalfa Center in Mentor Thursday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam thanked fans for their support since he agreed to purchase a majority interest in the team last August.
“We’re competitive people anyway, and we want to win, but I can tell you, we want to win now more than ever,” Haslam told a crowd of nearly 500. “We want to win for you guys, the fans, because you guys deserve it. Your support has been so unwavering, and I promise, we’re going to work hard and do everything possible to bring a winner in the Cleveland Browns to this area.
“Our goal is to be a consistent winner, and I think we have two model franchises in our own division. We talk often, if we’re going to be a good team, we’ve got to beat those two teams, one, of course, is the Steelers, and the other is Baltimore. Baltimore won the Super Bowl and they have both won two Super Bowls in the last 10 or 12 years, and that’s the type of franchise we want to be. We’re going to build a team that we think will be good for the long run, and one that this area deserves.”
Haslam thanked those in attendance for their “outstanding” efforts in raising $4 million for United Way.
“It’s a great cause,” Haslam said. “It helps a lot of people who either need a hand or just need someone to take care of them. I applaud you for raising $4 million for them in a pretty difficult environment.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Ohio because of the truck stops over the last 20 years, but never much time in the Cleveland-Metro area in Northeastern Ohio. I continue to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better group of people, nice people who work hard and do the right thing.”
Haslam, his father, his brother, and his wife, Dee, have all served as United Way of Greater Knoxville chairs in Knox County, Tennessee, and he referred to United Way’s work as “our No. 1 family cause.”
Haslam was 34 when he became United Way chairman. Knowing he would fill that role three years ahead of his appointment gave the veteran businessman time to learn more about the organization and their mission.
During the year leading up to the appointment as chairman, the Haslams visited one of the 50 United Way agencies within Knox County every Friday. After a particularly difficult construction, development and real estate meeting at Pilot Flying J’s offices, the Haslams made a trip to the local Cerebral Palsy Center, which later served as a motivator for Haslam’s dedication to United Way’s mission.
“There was a guy who was probably my age and he was so excited that next year’s United Way chairman was coming,” Haslam said. “He could not move his arms and legs, and he had written, ‘Welcome, Jimmy and Dee,’ and I saw how excited and fired up that this guy was. It had probably taken him most of the morning to do that, and I thought, ‘This guy is so excited to do this. The least we can do is be excited and fired up to learn more about United Way.’ That was a turning point for me with United Way. We went on to have a really successful United Way campaign.
“Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman, said, ‘What makes America great is Americans,’ and I really believe that. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, I think we all want to help those that are down on their luck, or who are less fortunate than us. United Way helps a lot of people who won’t ever be able to help themselves. No matter what the cause, I think we all have an obligation to help those people out.”