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Browns ending nearly 40-year relationship with Cleveland Clinic

Dec 26, 2013 -- 2:27pm

By Tony Grossi |


Updated at 4:22 p.m.

The Browns are ending a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic that spans almost 40 years.

According to multiple sources, the Browns will switch all medical services to University Hospitals. In addition, UH will supplant the Clinic as one of the franchise’s major corporate sponsors.

The deals are separate entities to comply with NFL policy.

League policy is that a team hospital, medical facility or physician group sponsorship cannot involve a commitment to provide medical services by team physicians. Any sponsorship agreements with medical service providers must remain separate and independent from any agreement to provide medical services to players.

Most NFL teams have both sponsorship and medical services contracts with the same provider. A few do not.

The UH sponsorship deal is believed to be worth up to $30 million to the Browns over 10 years.

The Browns would not confirm they have finalized a decision, but they did issue a prepared comment through spokesman Zak Gilbert.

The statement read: “The Browns have had a positive relationship with Cleveland Clinic for many years. With the end of the current agreement approaching, we’re in the process of evaluating and discussing this relationship. Our players’ health and safety has been and will continue to be the utmost priority for us. To be consistent with club policy, we aren’t able to comment on negotiations.”

The Cleveland Clinic issued the following comment through Eileen Sheil, executive director of corporate communications:

“Cleveland Clinic has been extraordinarily proud to support the Cleveland Browns over the years and to serve as its medical team and hospital provider since 1976. In this current health-care environment, Cleveland Clinic is focused on providing high-quality, accessible and affordable care to our patients. With this comes a responsibility to be good stewards of our resources and focus those on our employees and patients first.”

The change in health providers would result in a complete change of team physicians to UH doctors and medical specialists.

The Browns’ association with Cleveland Clinic stretches back to 1976 when it became the team’s health service provider. Former owner Art Modell had several heart surgeries performed at the Clinic and became an ardent financial supporter of the hospital system. Modell was appointed president of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the 1980s.

That close association to the Clinic continued after Modell moved the old Browns to Baltimore and Al Lerner became owner of the new Browns in 1998.

Lerner counted the Clinic as one of his favorite charities and reportedly donated over $100 million to the hospital over the years. Lerner, too, served as president of Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

The association with the Clinic continued upon Lerner’s death in 2002.

But several of the club’s business practices have changed since Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns from the Lerner family for $1.05 billion. Haslam was approved by the NFL as owner of the Browns in October of 2012.

In February, Haslam was named to the Clinic's board of directors. The appointment did not come to fruition, at Haslam's request, due to an ongoing federal probe of Haslam's Pilot Flying J corporation.

In January, the Browns struck a deal to sell naming rights to Cleveland Browns Stadium for the first time in franchise history. Akron-based FirstEnergy paid $102 million over 17 years, reported the Akron Beacon Journal, to rename it FirstEnergy Stadium.

In November, the Browns received approval from Cleveland City Council to undertake a two-year stadium improvement plan at a cost of $120 million. Council agreed to absorb $30 million of the cost over 15 years.

In the past 18 months, the Browns also have changed other service providers as it stamped its own identity on the franchise under the leadership of Haslam and CEO Joe Banner.

Another major change was switching the team’s radio contract this season from long-time rights-holder Clear Channel Communications to a unique partnership of Good Karma Broadcasting and CBS. The result was having the team’s games and team-produced programming on both 850 WKNR-AM and WKKR-FM 92.3.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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