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Incentivized tanking allegations spark NFL inquiry into Browns

SportIncentivized tanking allegations spark NFL inquiry into Browns


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The NFL launched an investigation into the Cleveland Browns after former coach Hue Jackson accused the team of incentivizing losing during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

In February, following Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and three other teams, Jackson indicated on social media that the Browns paid bonuses for team losses and he was set up to fail. 

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Special assistant to the head coach Hue Jackson of the Cincinnati Bengals talks with Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns prior to the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 23, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Special assistant to the head coach Hue Jackson of the Cincinnati Bengals talks with Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns prior to the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 23, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

He’s since softened on those claims. 

Jackson was 3-36-1 overall before being fired during the 2018 season. Cleveland was 1-15 in 2016 and 0-16 in 2017.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press the league engaged former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White to look into the former NFL coach’s allegations.

“The review is ongoing and is expected to conclude soon,” McCarthy said.

The Browns said it’s working with the league in its inquiry.

“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 spokesman Peter Jean-Baptiste said. “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 cooperated with Mary Jo White and look forward to the findings.”

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Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson speaks during the first day of the House of Athlete Scouting Combine in Plantation, Florida, March 3, 2021.

Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson speaks during the first day of the House of Athlete Scouting Combine in Plantation, Florida, March 3, 2021.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Jackson first made the claims on Twitter. He wrote Haslam was “was happy while we kept losing,” and while it may not have been $100,000 he was offered to lose, Jackson assured followers, “Trust me it was a good number.”

Kimberly Diemert, the executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, said it had records to help Flores.

“Fighting for what is right for everybody is what matters most,” Diemert tweeted. “Both of these men have been fighting the right fight. People who know the facts know the fight. To win the war you must be strategic.”

Jackson, who is now the head coach at Grambling State University, told ESPN in February there was money to be made for hitting certain milestones, like attaining a certain number of draft picks and being the youngest team in the league.

“Teams that win are just not the youngest team, not that the youngest teams can’t win, so I didn’t understand the process. I didn’t understand what the plan was, I asked for clarity because it did not talk about winning and losing until year three and four. So that told you right there that something wasn’t correct, but I still couldn’t understand it until I had the team that I had,” he told the outlet during an appearance on “SportsCenter.”

Then-Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson stands before a game against the New York Jets on Sept. 20, 2018.

Then-Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson stands before a game against the New York Jets on Sept. 20, 2018.
(David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports)

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“And I remember very candidly saying to [Browns team owner Jimmy Haslam], ‘I’m not interested in bonus money,’ because I’ve never known that to be a bonus. I was interested in taking whatever that money was and putting it toward getting more players on our football team because I didn’t think we were very talented at all. I know what good football teams look like, play like, what they act like, and we didn’t have a lot of talented players on the team at that time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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