Jimmy Haslam called owning the Browns a "privilege" Tuesday and reaffirmed his long-term commitment to turning around the franchise and providing the team's loyal fans with a consistent winner.
Haslam, who spoke with a small group of reporters at the NFL's owners meetings in Phoenix, definitively shot down a report that he was interested in owning the Tennessee Titans while repeatedly vowing to position the team for better success in 2015 and beyond.
"We feel really fortunate to own an NFL team," Haslam said, as detailed by Ohio.com's Nate Ulrich. "We feel really fortunate that it's Cleveland, and we're totally committed to turning the franchise around and making a consistent winner because of all the things we can do for Northeast Ohio and the city of Cleveland, that's by far the best thing we can do. And it's not easy."
Haslam, who was flanked by his wife, Dee, said he ultimately envisions living in Cleveland full-time, according to the reports. Since he took over the team, he's split his time in Cleveland and his native Knoxville, Tennessee, where his business Pilot Flying J is based.
They've made the most of their time in their new city, he said.
"Just the reception you get from fans, it's unbelievable,'' Haslam said, as detailed by Northeast Ohio Media Group's Mary Kay Cabot. "Dee and I will go to Indians games and sit in the crowd and just the response you get and how much everybody likes football offsets that. We have really good people working for us. It's a privilege. People ask us all the time 'are you glad you do this?' and we say 'unequivocally yes.' It's a real privilege to be in this position. If we don't win in four or five years, it's our fault.''
When the Browns open the 2015 season, fans will see the final result of the two-year, $125-million renovation project at FirstEnergy Stadium. It's a nod of appreciation to the fans who have continued to fill it year in and year out no matter how well the Browns are playing.
"You could not ask for a warmer welcoming than we've gotten since Aug. 4 or Aug. 3, 2012 to now,'' Haslam said, as detailed by Cabot. "I'm still overwhelmed when I go downtown and you walk in a building and just the love of the Browns and how friendly and nice people are. The greeting has just been overwhelming. It's a really nice place to live.
"We both grew up in the Southeast and (Cleveland) is a really nice place to live. Great people and, of course, in the business we're in in Cleveland, tremendous football fans. It's an unbelievable community that we feel fortunate to be a part of. We picked Cleveland. It happened to work out that Randy (Lerner) wanted to sell the team, but we feel very fortunate that he did, that the Lerners wanted to sell the team and that we were in position to do it.''