Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam is No. 1 on a rather ignominious list – the list of the worst owners in professional football, according to sports website The Big Lead.
The site, which is owned by USA Today, published a ranking of the 11 worst owners in the NFL on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Haslam was ranked as the worst, ahead of the likes of San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who is in the midst of trying to relocate his franchise to Los Angeles, and Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who this offseason announced he will be uprooting his franchise from St. Louis to L.A.
Haslam even topped Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who has come under fire for years for refusing to change the team’s controversial nickname, and for suing reporters in the D.C. area who chronicled some of his more extravagant failures and controversies.
The rankings are a combination of the results of each franchise’s on-field performance, and off-field newsmaking, typically of the negative variety.
As the post puts it, “(T)o top this list you really have to be a lowlife with zero knowledge of how to run a professional sports franchise.”
“Luckily, Jimmy Haslam checks those boxes. Haslam is the rare sports owner who is both criminally bad at running a team and an actual criminal. His company, Pilot Flying J had to pay a $92 million fine to the government and reimburse customers to the tune of $56 million after an FBI investigation showed the company had defrauded them on gas rebates. He purchased the Browns for $1 billion in 2012 and has been just as bad at managing that business,” the website noted in its report.
To be fair, Haslam wasn’t among the 10 PFJ executives to be indicted on criminal charges. A federal judge did state that Haslam and other executives plausibly knew about the fuel rebate scam. The last of several federal civil suits filed against the company was dismissed in December of last year, although it was expected to be refiled in state court. Three of the seven companies who opted of out the $92 million settlement and joined the civil suit later settled out of court with the company.
The article also revisits some of Haslam’s “greatest hits as an owner” including:
– When a homeless man told him to draft Johnny Manziel, so he traded up for the enormous bust of a quarterback.
– Hired, then fired Rob Chudzinski as his head coach in the span of one year.
– Attempted to trade multiple draft picks to the 49ers for Jim Harbaugh and allowed details of the bungled deal to leak to the public.
– Hired Mike Pettine after several botched interviews with higher-profile candidates. Fired Pettine after just two years, and threw out general manager Ray Farmer with him.
– Banked the future of his franchise on the unholy trinity of Manziel, Josh Gordon and Justin Gilbert. That trio has been an unmitigated disaster on and off the field.
The Browns are 19-45 since he purchased the team four seasons ago.