The NFL has sided with the Cleveland Browns over Hue Jackson.
The league announced Monday that its investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Browns after a review of the allegations Jackson made in February that he was incentivized to lose games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons while serving as Cleveland’s head coach.
The NFL released the following statement Monday about the probe led by Mary Jo White, former chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission:
“Following a 60-day independent review into comments made by former Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson that the Browns paid or otherwise provided incentives to lose games during the 2016-17 seasons, former US Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and a team of lawyers from the Debevoise firm determined that none of the allegations could be substantiated.
“The investigation found no evidence to suggest that the Browns’ Four-Year Plan or the club’s ownership or football personnel sought to lose or incentivized losses and made no decisions deliberately to weaken the team to secure a more favorable draft position.
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“The comprehensive review included the full cooperation of the Browns and interviews with Jimmy Haslam and current and former members of the organization. While Coach Jackson initially agreed to meet with the investigators, he ultimately did not do so.
“Although unable to speak directly to Coach Jackson, the Debevoise team had access to his public statements and to his filings and testimony in a prior arbitration proceeding. The club also produced thousands of pages of documents, including emails, texts, internal memos and presentation decks as well as other material relating to club operations and the filings and testimony in the arbitration proceeding between the club and Coach Jackson. “
The NFL also hired White to investigate allegations made by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores that owner Stephen Ross offered him $ 100,000 per loss during the 2019 season. Flores is suing the Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos and alleging racial discrimination by the league’s franchises in hiring practices.
After Flores filed the lawsuit in February, Jackson embarked on a media blitz to accuse the Browns of something similar. At the time, the Browns labeled Jackson’s accusations “categorically false.”
Although Jackson has made a distinction that he isn’t claiming the Browns offered him payments per loss, he has said the Browns paid him a total of $ 750,000 in end-of-season bonus money as part of a four-year plan designed to field a young team and stockpile draft picks in the first two seasons without a focus on winning until the third year.
“No, I was never offered money like Brian [Flores] had mentioned, “Jackson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in February.” I think this is a totally different situation but has some similarities.
“When you talk about incentivizing a four-year plan that led to the team not being able to play as well, that people benefited off of that-that’s different. But at the same time, it has some of the same similarities to it. “
Days before the CNN interview, Jackson had made stronger claims on Twitter, including that Browns owner “Jimmy Haslam was happy while we kept losing.”
A fan responded by tweeting, “Jimmy Haslam wasn’t offering … 100k per loss or Hue would be on the Forbes list.”
Jackson replied, “Trust me it was a good number!”
In response to Jackson’s allegations, Haslam told the Knoxville News Sentinel in February, “Unequivocally, Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games. That is an absolute falsehood. And it’s also an absolute falsehood that I laughed while we were losing. Most people who know me would say, ‘That’s not how Jimmy would react to losing.’ ”
Kimberly Diemert, the executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, also alleged on Twitter the Browns had paid bonus money to Jackson, former head of football operations Sashi Brown, whom the Baltimore Ravens recently hired as their president, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and general manager Andrew Berry to tank in 2016 and 2017, when Cleveland went 1-31.
Later, in a phone interview with the Beacon Journal, Diemert stood by the statements she made on social media.
Last month, after Sports Illustrated reported White had been investigating the Browns, the team denied Jackson’s claims again like it did in February.
“Even though Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made, it was important to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations,” Browns senior vice president of communications Peter John-Baptiste said via text message. “We welcomed an investigation and we are confident the results will show, as we’ve previously stated, that these allegations are categorically false. We have fully cooperated with Mary Jo White and look forward to the findings. ”
Given a chance to comment a few days later, Berry pointed to John-Baptiste’s statement.
“We will continue to cooperate with the investigation, and we are looking forward to having a resolution and for them to release their findings,” Berry added. “We feel just as strongly about everything as we did in February.”
Jackson went 3-36-1 (1-15 in 2016, 0-16 in 2017 and 2-5-1 in 2018) in two and a half seasons as the head coach of the Browns before Haslam fired him on Oct. 29, 2018.
Jackson is now the head football coach at Grambling State University.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: NFL says Hue Jackson’s Browns tanking claims couldn’t be substantiated