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Owner Jimmy Haslam surfaces at Browns' headquarters despite being embroiled in federal probe

By Nate Ulrich Published: April 25, 2013

Despite his truck-stop empire being at the center of a federal investigation, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam surfaced at the team’s headquarters for his first NFL Draft with the organization.

Haslam addressed a group of sponsors in the field house tonight but did not take questions from the crowd or meet with the media.

Haslam did not mention the scandal in which he’s embroiled. He stuck to football, expressing his pleasure in the Browns’ free-agency moves and optimism about the draft and the new coaching staff.

"The pace, intensity, tempo [of practices], no comparison to last year," Haslam said. "The energy level at practice is quite different. Players are real excited, giving me thumbs-up.
"[We] had a good free agency, still have plenty of cap room, have a great draft, need to have another good free agency, have another great draft. If [we] do that, we’ll be able to compete in our division. Let’s face it, if you can compete in our division, you got a chance to win the Super Bowl, right?

The FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided the headquarters of Pilot Flying J, Haslam’s family business, April 15 in Knoxville, Tenn. In court documents, the FBI accuses Pilot Flying J of using a fraud scheme to keep millions of dollars owed to trucking companies as gas rebates -- and that Haslam knew about it. Haslam has maintained his innocence since the raid.

Atlantic Coast Carriers, a Georgia-based trucking company, is suing Pilot Flying J, and it accused Haslam of obstructing justice and buying off cheated customers in a motion for a restraining order filed Thursday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Haslam met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday. Last week, league spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL would not ask Haslam to step away from the Browns during the investigation.

“It’s a difficult time for Jimmy and his family and his company,” Goodell said Wednesday during an interview with The Rich Eisen Podcast on NFL Network. “He’ll be keeping us informed if there are any developments on it. In the meantime, I know that he’s serious about the Cleveland Browns and doing everything he can to restore that team. And he’s also very serious about his Pilot [Flying] J company. He wants to make sure that that’s successful and operated with integrity, and that’s something that I believe he will do.”


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