INDIANAPOLIS -- Jimmy and Dee Haslam were honored Thursday for their commitment to diversity in the halls of Berea, as the Browns owner and the president of the Cleveland Browns Foundation received the Fritz Pollard Alliance's Paul "Tank" Younger award.
The Haslams accepted the award Thursday at the FPA's 12th annual meeting/awards reception, which was attended by a bevy of NFL coaches, front office members and scouts. Among them were Browns general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine.
"I know all of us in this room love and appreciate football as the ultimate team game," Jimmy Haslam said. 'Football brings together people from all different walks of life and we feel very privileged to be a part of such a storied franchise like the Cleveland Browns. We're proud of the organization we've put together and we're proud of the diversity in our organization. We look forward to being a part of the NFL for years to come."
When Haslam hired Farmer as the Browns' assistant general manager in May 2013, he reached out to Farmer's mentor, John Wooten. The former Browns guard is the chairman of the FPA, which promotes diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of the NFL.
Wooten, who ended the reception by saying he'd have his eyes on the Browns during the 2015 season, talked with Haslam for several weeks during the hiring process. He's also a close friend of Browns legend Jim Brown, who was welcomed back to the franchise shortly after Haslam took over the team.
Haslam called Wooten "instrumental" in his rebuilding of the Browns.
"I don't know anybody who is more tenacious and persistent when he gets on a cause than John," Haslam said. "He just will not give up."
A few months before Farmer was hired, Haslam added Sashi Brown to the front office as the team's Vice President - General Counsel. Farmer's staff and Pettine's coaching staff also include numerous minorities.
"The Haslams have stepped in as the owners of one of the storied franchises in the NFL and have made their mark," said Katie Blackburn, the Executive Vice President of the Cincinnati Bengals who also serves as Chair of NFL Diversity and Inclusion Committee. "They've communicated that they have two primary areas of focus: creating a winning team and creating the best fan experience in the NFL. They've focused on these items and have made and are continuing to make substantial improvements to FirstEnergy Stadium and they're building a strong team that was vying for a playoff spot this past year. Even though they have Tennessee roots, they have said they want to create opportunities for the city of Cleveland to shine.
"Given their passion and dedication, I'm sure they will."