Browns' Jimmy Haslam may step down during ongoing FBI investigation, according to report


Haslam continues to be investigated by the FBI and may need to remove himself from responsibility of the team until the situation ends.

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam may be asked to step aside while his Pilot Flying J company undergoes a federal investigation for a fraud scheme, a source tells ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi.

An FBI affidavit revealed that Haslam had knowledge of Pilot employees withholding fuel rebates and discounts from truck stop customers in order to boost profits. The source tells Tony Grossi that the NFL may ask Haslam to remove himself from operational control of the Browns:

"They can force him, probably, to transfer his interests to another entity within the family, where he may still have equity holdings but absolutely no involvement in operations," the source said. "They can remove him from having front-and-center involvement."

Haslam is currently at the Browns' training facilities preparing for the NFL Draft. He has denied involvement in the scheme and pledged to cooperate with the investigation. The source believes that the NFL could suspend him until the investigation is complete if he declines to step down.

There is precedent here. Paul Tagliabue suspended former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. for the entire 1999 season and fined him $1 million for his involvement in an extortion plot. He later sold the team to his sister.

The league has declined to comment at this moment.

UPDATE: The NFL has since issued a statement that it has no plans to ask Haslam to step away from the Browns during the investigation.

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