CBSSports: Accusations against Jimmy Haslam have some in NFL 'terrified'

By: Mike Freeman Email
By: Mike Freeman Email

(CBS) -- As you would imagine, many, if not all, of the league's owners and other top NFL officials are watching the situation with the FBI's investigation of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's business, Pilot Flying J.

The overall reaction, according to several league officials, is that some owners are "absolutely terrified." Said one NFL source: "More than a few owners are scared to death. The fear is that even if he did nothing wrong, the damage of the investigation alone, and the headlines that come with it, could damage a Browns organization trying to steady itself."

Some officials are saying privately that they haven't been this worried about an owner since former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. DeBartolo was involved in a corruption case of a former Louisiana governor and as a result of a guilty plea paid a $1 million fine and had two years of probation. He was also punished by the NFL.

That's the kind of concern the league has now with this case. It's getting extremely ugly and extremely serious.

The government alleges that Flying J has engaged in fraud for "many years" according to an affidavit. It's alleged that Haslam's company committed acts of rebate fraud and that Haslam knew. The NFL isn't commenting on the allegations.

Haslam was seen as a steadying force for one of the league's proud teams. That belief could change.


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