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Former Browns owner Art Modell named finalist on Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Centennial Slate ballot

Posted at 4:40 PM, Dec 19, 2019

CLEVELAND — The NFL Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2020 Centennial Slate Finalists, and one name in the contributor column has left some Cleveland Browns fans dumbfounded. Among the 38 finalists, 10 contributors were named—including infamous former Browns owner Art Modell.

While Modell is a major part of the league’s history, his actions in Cleveland have many wondering if he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Saying that Modell, who assumed control of the Browns in 1961, is not a popular man in Cleveland would be quite the understatement. His decision to relocate the team to Baltimore made him public enemy No. 1 in Northeast Ohio.

Fans Browns
19 Nov 1995: A fan holds a sign which accuses Cleveland Brown owner Art Modell of disregard of fans at Cleveland Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Packers defeated the Browns that day 31-20.

In the decades he owned the team, Modell had a fractured relationship with fans.

The owner first drew the ire of Browns fans when he fired the team’s namesake and first coach Paul Brown in 1963. Public contract disputes and heavy-handed ownership tactics followed, as fans began anti-Modell movements at the games.

Modell owned Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the former home of both the Browns and the Cleveland Indians. After the Indians moved to then Jacobs Field, Modell asked the city for funding to improve the stadium. Despite the city agreeing, Modell insisted the funding might not be enough to keep the team around and then announced his plans to relocate the Browns to Baltimore. Which he successfully did in 1996.

Modell attempted to take the team’s name with him but was unsuccessful. His newly moved Baltimore team went on to become the Ravens, and Cleveland was left without pro football until 1999.

Just before the team moved, Modell also fired then Browns head coach Bill Belichick despite ensuring him he would be the coach in Baltimore. Belichick went on to be the coach the New England Patriots where he has won six Super Bowls and is considered by many to be the greatest coach since -- wait for it -- Paul Brown.

Modell is joined on the list of contributor finalists by Bud Adams, Ralph Hay, Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, Art McNally, Clint Murchison, Steve Sabol, Seymour Siwoff, Paul Tagliabue and George Young.

Of the 10 contributors named finalists, three will be selected to the Hall of Fame by the Blue Ribbon Panel in January. The new enshrinees will be announced following the vote.

Here are all 38 of the Centennial Class of 2020 finalists:


  • Don Coryell - 1973-1977 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
  • Bill Cowher - 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Tom Flores - 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-1994 Seattle Seahawks
  • Mike Holmgren - 1992-1998 Green Bay Packers, 1999-2008 Seattle Seahawks
  • Jimmy Johnson - 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-1999 Miami Dolphins
  • Buddy Parker - 1949 Chicago Cardinals, 1951-1956 Detroit Lions, 1957-1964 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Dan Reeves - 1981-1992 Denver Broncos, 1993-96 New York Giants, 1997-2003 Atlanta Falcons
  • Dick Vermeil - 1976-1982 Philadelphia Eagles, 1997-1999 St. Louis Rams, 2001-2005 Kansas City Chiefs


  • Bud Adams, Owner - 1960-2013 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Titans
  • Ralph Hay, Owner - 1918-1922 Canton Bulldogs
  • Frank "Bucko" Kilroy, Scout/General Manager/Executive - 1960-1961 Philadelphia Eagles, 1962-1964 Washington Redskins, 1965-1970 Dallas Cowboys, 1971-2006 New England Patriots
  • Art McNally, Official/Administrator - 1959-2015 National Football League
  • Art Modell, Owner - 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens
  • Clint Murchison, Founder/Owner - 1960-1983 Dallas Cowboys
  • Steve Sabol, Administrator/President - 1964-2012 NFL Films
  • Seymour Siwoff, Owner/President - 1952-2019 Elias Sports Bureau
  • Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League
  • George Young, Contributor/General Manager - 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-1978 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League


  • Cliff Branch, WR - 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
  • Harold Carmichael, WR - 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys
  • Jim Covert, T - 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
  • Roger Craig, RB - 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-1993 Minnesota Vikings
  • Bobby Dillon, S - 1952-1959 Green Bay Packers
  • LaVern Dilweg, E - 1926 Milwaukee Badgers, 1927-1934 Green Bay Packers
  • Ox Emerson, G/LB/C - 1931-1937 Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions, 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers
  • Randy Gradishar, LB - 1974-1983 Denver Broncos
  • Cliff Harris, S - 1970-1979 Dallas Cowboys
  • Winston Hill, T - 1963-1976 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams
  • Cecil Isbell, TB/DB/HB - 1938-1942 Green Bay Packers
  • Alex Karras, DT - 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions
  • Verne Lewellen, HB - 1924-1927, 1928-1932 Green Bay Packers, 1927 New York Yankees
  • Tommy Nobis, LB - 1966-1976 Atlanta Falcons
  • Drew Pearson, WR - 1973-1983 Dallas Cowboys
  • Donnie Shell, S - 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Duke Slater, T - 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-1925 Rock Island Independents, 1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
  • Mac Speedie, E - 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns [AAFC/NFL]Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E - 1944-1955 Chicago Bears
  • Al Wistert, OT/DT/G - 1943 Phil-Pitt, 1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles