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Modell not going quietly

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Modell not going quietly

Ravens owner makes pitch for continued revenue sharing, restrictions on underclass draft entries

The Associated Press

Originally published March 29, 2004, 7:27 PM EST

PALM BEACH, Fla. - Art Modell isn't going quietly.

Modell never has lacked an opinion or a punch line. He had plenty of both Monday as his 43-year career as a team owner neared its end.

Steve Bisciotti takes full ownership of the Ravens on April 8. Modell, honored earlier in the day by the NFL for his contributions to building the league - although he still is vilified in Cleveland for moving the Browns to Baltimore - called Monday "the culmination of the final lap."

The man who, along with Pete Rozelle in 1961 and '62, brought about revenue-sharing in the NFL, made a pitch for not abandoning what he called "a must for the league to survive." There is some fear within the NFL that owners such as Dallas' Jerry Jones and Washington's Daniel Snyder will push for different apportioning of merchandising income.

"The ownership values have changed, and maybe not always for the better," Modell said. "New owners need all the money they can get to service their debt. Revenue-sharing led to a series of developments that brought the league to what it is ... the NFL is the benchmark for all (leagues).

"Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder have their own thoughts and they are entitled to them, but they are short term. It's imperative we continue revenue-sharing. Why do you think what's happening in baseball and basketball is happening?"

Modell emphasized that the Green Bays and Jacksonvilles of the league would not be around without equal distribution of television money and merchandising revenue.

"Every team is only as good as it's fellow team," he said. "We are the only place where we build each other up to knock 'em down on Sunday."

He doesn't like the prospect of the youngsters who play on Saturday, the high school players and college underclassmen, trying to make the NFL before they are ready. Modell pointed to the Maurice Clarett court ruling allowing anyone to apply for the NFL draft as potentially damaging to the sport on all levels.

"Undergrads signing ... is a disgrace," he said. "They should finish schooling academically and athletically and then come into our sport. It's a bad deal for the public at large, it's not good for the NFL, for the kid, and it is a rape of the colleges. The NCAA doesn't have a chance."

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wondered if the NFL would have had the chance to develop into such a success story without Modell's contributions. He specifically mentioned Modell's role in negotiating television contracts; developing the concept of Monday night football; chairing negotiations on the first collective bargaining agreement with the players' union; and convincing the large market owners to, yes, share revenues.

"Art has been a tremendous contributor not just as a team owner," Tagliabue said, "but a league president and participant."

That began in 1961, when he bought the Browns from Paul Brown and almost immediately became a power broker in league business. Modell's Browns had their own television network in those days, while nine other NFL teams were on CBS and two were with NBC. By offering to give up that network, which had no restrictions on where it could show Browns games, he helped convince Rams owner Dan Reeves, Giants owner Jack Mara and Bears owner George Halas to participate in pooling funds.

Still, Modell's legacy for many fans will be as the man who took the Browns out of Cleveland. He admitted Monday he did so to avoid losing the franchise.

"Retrospectively, if I didn't move to Baltimore, my family would have gone into bankruptcy," he said. "If you declare (bankruptcy), they strip you of the ballclub. There was no other bottom line; I was compelled to move this thing and then sell half of it (to Bisciotti)."

Despite the support of many, Modell has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, quite likely because of lingering resentment over the move to Baltimore. He still sounds bitter about "being portrayed as a buck-chasing guy" by the media in Cleveland and elsewhere.

"I was chasing survival," he said.

Not one to leave the scene on such a down note, Modell told stories about Halas and Mara and Red Grange during his final media gathering as Ravens owner. He recalled how Halas and Grange, after a successful barnstorming tour, were invited to the White House to meet President Coolidge. When Coolidge was told he was going to meet two Chicago Bears, the president responded: "Great, I love animal acts."

Before he could tell another story, a feed from a television monitor loudly blared out a newscast. Without missing a beat, Modell said: "Hey, I work alone."

And he left them laughing.


Damn. I don't know what to think. :blink: I know he and Al Davis AIN'T on the same page. I like this guy better. Even IF they committed the same crime. Al Davis IS Satan for trying to destroy this agreement. Sorry Kitared. :unsure:

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Well, if it wasn't for Modell then there wouldn't be the Bengals....How's that for irony? He's still a prick, but he know's his business.....

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Well, if it wasn't for Modell then there wouldn't be the Bengals....How's that for irony? He's still a prick, but he know's his business.....

I'll go one further, if there wasn't Modell there wouldn't be an NFL like we know it today. God that feels so dirty.

Well, if cheers you up at all, he did screw over Cleveland :D So that's gotta count for some kinda good.

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My Bengal Die-Hard genes won't allow me to compliment Modell.

- He will continue to be the reason why there is an unnatural balance in the NFL. The Browns, are a trademark to the game.They've had some really great players, and were one of the main Reasons , why Paul Brown set up shop some 4 hours away.

- The Ravens are a blasphemy to the game, and the New Browns will forever be a " band- aid" to a very deep wound Modell opened some 9 years ago !

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