To outsiders, Cleveland Browns fans seem like they spend most of their time swinging between two emotional poles when they opine about their team’s direction: fed up to the point of apoplectic rage, or self-pitying resignation. Even their version of hope is depressing. But that’s life as a fan of a laughingstock franchise: you’re long past choosing which team owns your heart, and you can’t do anything to change that team. Unless…
A group of Browns fans calling themselves “Billion Dollar Browns” has started a GoFundMe to buy the team. It’s not a shocking concept — in fact it’s probably more shocking that it isn’t commonplace — but what is jaw-dropping is how nice they are about it. From their GoFundMe page:
“This is not a statement to disparage or repudiate the current ownership personally or professionally,” said Bryan Mitchell, AH Liberty, Chief Operating Officer and Billion Dollar Browns campaign organizer. “This is a campaign to allow the people most passionate about the Cleveland Browns to have a more direct impact in the direction and management of the team.”
“We respect the work of the current ownership and past owners, but feel the team would be best served under the stewardship of its fans.”
Wait, are these guys “It’s not you, it’s me”-ing Browns owner Jimmy Haslam? That’s kind of amazing. I can’t imagine the restraint required to present themselves as reasonable people rather than frothing rage monsters screaming, “GIVE US BACK OUR TEAM, YOU CRIMINAL FRAUD!” They wouldn’t get very far that way.
Basically, they’re hoping to get enough — $1 donations from a million people — to prove their legitimacy, and then they’ll come back and give $1,000 to put up a billion dollars if the idea actually catches on. Their plan is to organize the team like the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers, with none of the money actually returning in the form of stocks, but rather a seed fund to finance a sale.
It’s a fun idea, definitely ambitious, but hamstrung by that I.O.U. bargain. Getting people to promise to give a thousand bucks in some vague future is all well and good until that future arrives. I doubt they’ll sue for their money when droves of supporters back out. And even if they do raise a billion dollars, I have a pretty good idea of what Haslam’s response would be: