CLEVELAND — A resolution sponsored by councilman Brian Kazy calling on FirstEnergy to relinquish its naming rights to the city’s publicly-owned football stadium where the Browns play is on the agenda for city council's May 23 meeting.
The Kazy resolution says the stadium's name "unintentionally implies community support for a criminal enterprise."
This isn't the first such push from lawmakers. In 2021 two local state reps sent a letter to Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, as well as Mayor Frank Jackson, urging the Browns to cease association with FirstEnergy and remove the company’s name and logo from the stadium.
The calls for a name change have been prompted by the company’s involvement in a massive federal probe and bribery investigation.
RELATED: FirstEnergy to pay $230M in settlement in Ohio bribery case
Kazy released this statement on Friday afternoon:
The resolution I am sponsoring is self-explanatory. First Energy spent nearly $61 million to get Ohio HB 6 passed to secure a $1.3 billion dollar bailout by ratepayers for its nuclear power plants. A federal investigation led to felony charges in connection to the bribery scheme to influence state legislators to pass the legislation.
FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to pay a $230 million fine for its central role in a bribery scheme. A corruption trial on the issue is scheduled for early next year.
"This Council believes that First Energy applied political pressure using phony citizen groups and paid out significant dollars to restrict or destroy Cleveland Public Power and to influence or control this Council,” the resolution states.
“That First Energy continues to market itself using the public’s taxpayer-funded stadium signifies its failure to fully acknowledge its criminal behavior and unintentionally implies community support for a criminal enterprise.”
Simply, I don’t believe that the municipally-owned stadium that the Cleveland Browns play in should bear the name of this tainted company. The sign, seen as people enter Cleveland, gives the impression that they represent the city. This is false.
Jennifer Young, manager of external communications for FirstEnergy, released a statement in 2021 to News 5 that read:
"FirstEnergy has a longstanding commitment to supporting communities through sponsorship of civic, athletic and arts organizations. We have taken swift action to address events that have occurred over the past year and to ensure a culture of strong ethics, integrity and accountability at the company. We look forward to continuing as a valued partner with all the communities in which we live and work."
We have reached out to FirstEnergy to ask if it has any additional comment on the matter.
The Browns released a statement Saturday morning regarding the naming rights:
“FirstEnergy has been a dedicated partner to the Cleveland Browns, not only on naming rights of the stadium but also on our efforts to improve the lives of many members of the Northeast Ohio community through our youth football and education initiatives. They have taken meaningful action to address the issues that transpired in 2019-2020 and are committed to upholding a culture of integrity and accountability by installing the appropriate policies and procedures going forward. FirstEnergy is also a significant regional employer and strong contributor to the economy of Northeast Ohio, and we remain committed to our relationship and look forward to our continued partnership.”
RELATED: Local lawmakers call on Browns to change stadium name
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.
You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We're also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.