Just two years into a four-year advertising deal with ESPN, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is cutting it off, reportedly because he’s upset about a story ESPN published a few weeks ago about Haslam’s chaotic and unsuccessful ownership of the Cleveland Browns, the Sports Business Journal reported today.
In addition to owning the Browns, Haslam is the CEO of a company called Pilot Flying J, which runs truck stops or something. This company initially struck a deal with ESPN (which owns all SEC marketing and media rights) to advertise around college football and have “an SEC corporate sponsorship.” It also stipulated that ESPN talent Paul Finebaum and Laura Rutledge would endorse the company, per SBJ.
But just a few short weeks after ESPN published a deeply reported story by Seth Wickersham about the “comically inept” Browns and Haslam’s role in “creating [...] chaos” in the organization, Haslam is taking his toys and marching home. From SBJ:
Before the ESPN.com story ran on Jan. 24, Pilot officials publicly had been effusive in their praise of the ESPN arrangement and even used the college football platform to launch a new “Welcome To” ad campaign last year. But sources said that the relationship was irretrievably damaged by a lengthy insider-style story on ESPN.com entitled “The Clash of the Cleveland Browns: How Hue Jackson, Jimmy Haslam and Baker Mayfield collided.”
The two parties are reportedly negotiating to “unwind” the deal.