'Steelers fan' buying the Browns?

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
12:45
PM ET
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It's no surprise that Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner is in talks to sell all or a portion of the team.

There has always been chatter that his heart wasn't into owning the team. It was his father, Al Lerner, who bought the team. Randy Lerner inherited it when his father died, along with the responsibility of trying to get the Browns out of the AFC North cellar.

The unexpected part of Friday's news is the potential buyer/investor. Lerner confirmed in a statement that he is negotiations with Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam, a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2008. Yes, the Browns' despised division rival. If that upsets Browns fans, then they shouldn't read Haslam's investor profile on the Steelers' website where he proclaims: "I am 1,000 percent a Steelers fan!"

I totally understand the backlash this has caused from fans in Cleveland. It was only 16 years ago when your team was ripped away and moved to Baltimore. Now, it looks like a man waving the Terrible Towel is coming to take over the team.

This is probably futile, but let me try to calm your fears on this matter. First, Lerner didn't specify whether he'd be willing to sell the team outright or just a portion of it. So, the notion that Haslam is taking the entire team from Lerner is just speculation at this point (although you would have to think he is looking for a majority share).

And second, Haslam isn't a lifelong Steelers fan who grew up drinking Iron City beer. He is a billionaire who was a fan of the Cowboys and Colts before investing in the Steelers. He reportedly tried to buy the Titans a few years ago, which tells you how strong his ties are with the Steelers. If Haslam would gain a stake in the Browns, I'm sure he would change his allegiance to the Dawg Pound.

Let's see how this plays out. There is a lot of optimism about the future of the Browns with the likes of Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. Now, those hopes comes with questions about who will be owing the team down the road.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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