CLEVELAND (AP) — Avoiding a negative reaction and potentially ugly scene, the Cleveland Browns will honor a request by Art Modell’s family and not acknowledge the former owner’s death before Sunday’s season opener.
The Browns had planned an “appropriate recognition” for Modell, who died on Thursday at the age of 87. But Modell’s son, David, spoke to Browns president Mike Holmgren and asked the team not do anything to recognize the late owner who remains vilified by many Cleveland fans for moving his team to Baltimore after the 1995 season.
Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said the team will grant the family’s wish.
Any tribute for Modell could have triggered an ugly backlash by some fans in attendance. Modell was never able to return to Cleveland after he chose to move the Browns because he couldn’t get city officials to build him a new stadium.
Gulkis said Saturday that the Browns had intended to have a short tribute read over the public address system before the Browns hosted the Eagles. Following Modell’s passing on Thursday, the Browns released a one-sentence statement offering their condolences to the Modell family.
The team’s original decision to recognize Modell’s death had brought strong reaction from some Browns fans.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league asked all its teams to honor Modell with either a moment of silence or “other appropriate gesture” at this week’s games. The gregarious Modell, who owned the Browns from 1961-95, is credited with helping the league’s growth in the 1960s through television contracts.
On Saturday, hundreds of Ravens fans paid their respects to Modell at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium as his casket, draped with the American Flag, was placed at the 50-yard line. David Modell and his brother, John, greeted fans who came to honor their father.
Modell’s funeral is Tuesday, one day after Ravens open the season against Cincinnati.