WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - Former owner of the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns and NFL visionary, Art Modell, is dead at the age of 87.
Art Modell passed away of natural causes Thursday morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The grim news was confirmed by his son and former Ravens President David Modell on Thursday morning.
“Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at four this morning. My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October.”
He purchased the Cleveland Browns for an unprecedented $4 million in 1961, but became infamous to the city when he relocated the franchise to Baltimore for the start of the 1996 season, renaming the team the Ravens; who he would continue to own and operate until 2004. Baltimore quickly embraced Modell, who returned football to the city that lost the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984.
Despite the lingering bitter taste left for him in the mouths of Cleveland fans, he did not leave the city empty handed. When he packed the team for the east coast he left the name “Browns”, the team colors, as well as the franchise’s rich history. Modell said of the move at the time, “That didn’t happen in Baltimore with the Colts, in Brooklyn with the Dodgers, or in other cities that lost sports teams”
Md. Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was Mayor of Baltimore during the Ravens Super Bowl run, weighed in on Modell’s passing:
Baltimore and the State of Maryland mourn the loss today of former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell.—
Martin O'Malley (@GovernorOMalley) September 06, 2012
Art Modell’s list of accomplishments in football as a visionary is endless. He helped usher in a new era of football in the NFL by working alongside Vince Lombardi to complete the league’s first collective bargaining agreement, negotiating the league’s first network television contract, and by breaking the impasse for realignment while serving on the NFL-AFL merger committee – he moved the Browns to the AFC to make the deal work.
Along with 43 years of NFL ownership, producing 28 winning seasons with an overall record of 346-305-8, Art was also a military veteran, joining the Air Force when he was 18.
Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe who played 2 seasons for the Ravens, including the 2000 Super Bowl team, said of Art:
“(He) talked with me every day when I played in Baltimore. He knew everything about what was going on in my life. He showed real concern. But, it wasn’t just me. He knew the practice squad players’ names. He treated them the same. He was out at practice when it was 100 degrees and when the December snows came. I loved playing for him.”
Aside from the 2000 Ravens Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants, Art won an NFL Championship in 1964 when his Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts.
He is survived by his sons John and David, and six grandchildren – Breslin, Arthur, Collier and David and Isabella and Dylan.
“Art wanted to know everything we were doing, and he directed us every day,” said Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “He was demanding, but he made me laugh and smile at the same time. The tougher the situation, the better his humor.” Art made him the league’s first minority GM in 2002.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh:
Art Modell was a visionary who broke barriers to help make the NFL what it is today and to help move our society forward in important ways. It was Art’s vision that married the NFL and TV together like nothing else in the history of sports and entertainment. He saw it first and drove it home with the networks and the league.
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti:
We will miss him so much. How lucky are all of us to have had Art in Baltimore? How fortunate I am to have had him teach me about the NFL. His generosity, his love, his humor, his intelligence, his friendship – we were all blessed by this great man. We will strive to live up to his standard.