Thursday, September 13, 2012
Art Modell should be in the Hall of Fame
By Jamison Hensley
I'm not here to try to convince you that former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell, who died one week ago today, should be in the Hall of Fame. My stance is that Modell should've been enshrined a long time ago.
Ask the Hall of Fame voters why Modell hasn't been inducted and most point to him relocating the beloved Browns to Baltimore in 1996. I'm not saying the move was right. I'm saying the move shouldn't block him from getting into the Hall.
Art Modell owned the Browns from 1961-95 and the Ravens from 1996-2004.
Before Modell's final season as the Ravens' majority owner in 2003, I asked him about his chances of ever reaching Canton. His response: "I know [Raiders owner] Al Davis is in and he moved the team twice. Doesn't that say something to you?"
It's hard to argue against Modell on this point. Davis was enshrined in 1992, which was 10 years after he moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. The Hall can't have one set of rules for Davis and another for Modell.
Take away the relocation and Modell is a slam dunk to get into the Hall of Fame based on his credentials. Among Modell's major accomplishments were his working as chairman of the league's television committee for 31 years, his lobbying other owners in the 1960s to share television revenues and his willingness to move the Browns to the AFC when the AFL-NFL merger took place.
He was also a leader on diversity by promoting minorities to key positions in his front office and elevated Ozzie Newsome to be the first African-American general manager in NFL history. He's undoubtedly part of the fabric of this country's most popular sport's league.
It's understandable that Browns fans still paint Modell as a villain. Those who knew him as an owner and a man will remember him much differently.
When former Browns Don Fleming and Ernie Davis died, Modell pitched in to cover funeral costs. When another Brown, Eddie Johnson, suffered with cancer, Modell quietly sent a $15,000 check to help handle medical bills. And when Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with murder, it was Modell who flew down to Atlanta to be a character witness at his bail hearing.
Modell wasn't the perfect owner. He overspent for wide receiver Andre Rison, writing the future free-agent bust a $17 million check. He also fired Bill Belichick, who will eventually end up in the Hall of Fame. I still believe Modell will end up there as well. But the moment will be bittersweet because Modell should've been there a long time ago. He should've been there in Canton to enjoy it.