The Browns are dedicated to promoting workplace diversity, equity and inclusion and have welcomed and focused on the development of numerous employees from diverse backgrounds who have been able to bring an array of perspectives to all areas of the team.
As a result of the commitment, the Browns are being recognized as leaders in the NFL with the inaugural "John B. Wooten Award" by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a nonprofit organization comprised of scouts, coaches and front office personnel in the NFL as well as other sports professionals committed to equal opportunity in the industry. Wooten, 85, was a two-time Pro Bowler across nine seasons (1959-1967) as an offensive lineman with the Browns and was a longtime executive in the NFL. He served as the executive director and chairman of the Alliance until his retirement in 2021.
The award honors NFL teams that embody workplace diversity, equity and inclusion across the hierarchy and was presented to the Browns during the annual Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Salute to Excellence Awards on Thursday during Super Bowl LVI Week at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. The celebration guests consist of NFL league executives, team owners, coaches, scouts and local business leaders, including commentary from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"It is a tremendous honor for the Browns to be the inaugural recipient of the John B. Wooten Award," Executive Vice President and GM Andrew Berry said. "Diversity, equity and inclusion are priorities for us. We are deliberate in hiring and developing people who come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives. We believe success in the NFL comes from good people and good people come from all walks of life. We appreciate the recognition and look forward to continuing the work."
Before and after Berry's arrival in 2020, the Browns have filled their business and football operations departments with multiple fellowships and minority hires that have helped the organization grow. Berry, one of seven Black GMs in the NFL, filled two pertinent positions in his front office with two other Black executives in Glenn Cook, who is Vice President of Player Personnel, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who was Vice President of Football Operations the last two seasons. Adofo-Mensah was hired Jan. 26 by the Vikings as their GM, a promotion Berry and the Browns celebrated as it represented the organization's ability to foster internal front office growth. Football Operations, Scouting, Research and Strategy and other arms of the organization all also hold several minority employees who have helped advance the franchise.
The staff of head coach Kevin Stefanski also holds defensive coordinator Joe Woods and Chief of Staff Callie Brownson, one of only a few female coaches around the NFL. Brownson was also the first woman to coach an NFL position group in a regular-season game when she filled in for tight ends coach Drew Petzing in Week 12 of 2020. Stefanski's staff contains several other minority coaches who have all helped bring 19 wins to Cleveland in the last two years, the most wins the Browns have totaled in two seasons since 1988–89.
Stefanski's staff also includes Ashton Grant, who completed his second season with the team as part of the Bill Willis Coaching Fellowship, which the Browns created for a rising minority coach with a focus on the offensive side of the ball.
The Browns have hosted four fellows on the business side of the organization over the last year as part of the Haslam Sports Group Diversity and Opportunity Fellowship Program. Each fellow is in the process of completing four broad rotations located in either Cleveland or Columbus and will spend 12 weeks in each of the following disciplines: Administration, Marketing, Operations and Sales.
The Haslams were previously recognized by the Fritz Pollard Alliance for promoting diversity in NFL front offices in 2014 with the Paul "Tank" Younger Award.