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Browns continue efforts to grow partnership in Nigeria with first-ever draft pick announcement 

Ozo Chukwu announced the Browns’ fifth-round pick from Lagos, Nigeria

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As Ozo Chukwu stood in Trax Apparel, a local storefront in Lagos, Nigeria, surrounded by racks of traditional Nigerian clothing, he became a part of history. Chukwu announced that the Browns selected WR Jamari Thrash in the fifth round of the 2024 NFL Draft as the first-ever pick announcement from Nigeria.

The announcement is part of the Browns' efforts to grow the game in Nigeria. In March, the Browns were granted international marketing rights in Nigeria as part of the NFL's Global Markets Program. The Browns became the first club awarded the Nigerian market and are the only team in the market. It is also the club's first entry into the Global Markets Program.

As a sports and media personality, Chukwu sees a high level of potential in his relationship with the Browns to help grow the game in Nigeria as well.

"Seeing what the NFL and the Browns trying to do to make the game more global, it's something that resonates with me as well," Chukwu said. "Seeing how we can build the relationship moving forward, it's something that is definitely interesting."

Chukwu has held an appreciation for sports since his childhood. As education played an important role in his life, he found a way to pair the two together as he wrote his master's thesis on the assessments of European football club's efficiency.

He first developed an interest for the NFL through the Tuck Rule Game – the infamous AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Patriots and the Raiders in the 2001 season. Chukwu has grown to become a fan of the league, and watches as many different games as possible. Now, he even stays up to watch games during the season that occur around 3 a.m. local time.

"Being in Nigeria here and trying to do stuff in the sport space and doing things in the sports space, this opportunity was one that was great," he said.

Chukwu found ways to highlight Nigeria in his pick announcement. He sported a traditional Nigeria outfit called an agbada in the Browns' colors, as well as the helmet featured on the front of the robe.

He spoke with local Nigerian designer Mark Odiete, who he's worked with in the past, about his vision for the outfit to represent the three major tribes in Nigeria and a piece of clothing that all three tribes could wear, as well as have the details of the Browns.

"I felt that being the first time it was ever going to be done from Nigeria, it would be right to wear a traditional Nigerian outfit," Chukwu said. "Something that was going to have its roots in our culture. But then also, if I'm going to wear something with my culture here in Nigeria, it would also be nice for the outfit to be inspired by something from the Cleveland Browns. So, something that when people see it, they know from the get-go that it's something being done for the Cleveland Browns."

As the Browns built out its bid for the Nigerian market over the last year, the decision makers had specific reasons as to why they chose Nigeria. They wanted to support their players and anyone who had Nigerian roots – specifically players like TE David Njoku, DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, T Hakeem Adeniji, T Roy Mbaeteka and G Germain Ifedi.

They also saw an opportunity to connect with those in the Northeast Ohio community who have Nigerian roots, as well as impact an entire community with Nigeria having a population of over 230 million. With the goal of growing the game of football, both the Browns and the NFL saw Nigeria as a potential market in order to do so.

With a focus of how they can apply youth football to Nigeria, the Browns will support NFL Africa during their June 2024 camps with TE David Njoku being on-site.

There will also soon be a Browns Backers chapter located in Lagos, Nigeria, and Lagos will serve as the hub for Browns-related events and opportunities. Through these efforts and more to come, Chukwu believes there is real opportunity to grow the presence of the NFL in Nigeria, as well as the game of football.

"That's something where, if you can bring in another sport that could also help kids because when we look sports, sports are easier to translate," he said. "If you're good enough at 21 or 22, you could change your life and your families for generations to come. The NFL and sports is also a great place for character building, because sports teaches you a whole lot about teamwork. It teaches you a whole lot about camaraderie and teaches you a whole lot about being an outstanding person in society.

"I think that's something that I have been able to do with my platform, and it's great to be able to use that and to work with the NFL to create a huge platform for the NFL to grow in this market, and also help a lot of kids that can play the sport and excel," Chukwu said.

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