Jimmy Haslam III, who agreed Thursday to purchase a controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns, is used to cheering for teams wearing the color orange.
Haslam grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., which is home to The University of Tennessee. For every home game, fans of the Volunteers flock to Neyland Stadium and fill it to the capacity of 102,455 to cheer on their team.
That love for their football team is something Knoxville and Cleveland have in common, according to Haslam.
“We’re competitive and we look forward to the opportunity,” Haslam told the Cleveland media Friday. “It’s that passion that you talk about here that we like. I grew up in Knoxville, which is a college football town. Both teams wear orange, ironically, and we have that same passion. I understand that the spirit and mood of the city rises and falls with how the Browns do and it’s our job to keep it up more than down.”
Haslam, the CEO of Pilot Flying J Corporation, is the son of a former University of Tennessee football player and carries a love for the game to his newest venture of owning the Browns franchise.
“We’ve been around football all our lives,” Haslam said. “I think anybody who likes athletics and in particular, likes football and has had some success in business thinks, ‘Man, it’d be pretty awesome to own an NFL franchise.’ We’ve actually had that in our mind for several years. When we got involved with the Steelers, which was a great opportunity to kind of learn, observe and meet a lot of people around the league, that was the first step in getting us to where we are here today.”
In addition to instilling a love of football in his children, the elder Jimmy Haslam made sure Jimmy Haslam III and his brother, Bill, developed an appreciation for all sports. He did that by taking his sons on trips to the Super Bowl and World Series.
Haslam is looking forward to bringing that appreciation for football and his competitive spirit to his future position with the Browns.
“I was raised in that kind of background, played high school sports, was not good enough to play college sports,” Haslam recalled. “I’m a firm believer in athletics. I have an intern every year that’s a college kid and the prerequisites are this, No. 1, they had to play high school sports because I think that competitive aspect comes through and I think it’s important in business. Business is just as competitive as football. I think football is the best team sport there is because you’re relying on the other 10 guys and if one guy doesn’t do his job, the play’s not going to work. I just think it’s a great team sport and the NFL is the premier sports league in the world.”