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The NFL said Monday it found no evidence the Cleveland Browns incentivized former head coach Hue Jackson to lose games during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and lawyers from the Debevoise firm determined none of the allegations Jackson made over the last couple of months have been substantiated. The NFL said the lawyers were “unable” to speak with Jackson directly.
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“The investigation found no evidence to suggest that the Browns’ Four-Year Plan or the club’s ownership or football personnel sought to lose or incentivized losses and made no decisions deliberately to weaken the team to secure a more favorable draft position,” the league said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital.
“The comprehensive review included the full cooperation of the Browns and interviews with Jimmy Haslam and current and former members of the organization. While Coach Jackson initially agreed to meet with the investigators, he ultimately did not do so.
“Although unable to speak directly to Coach Jackson, the Debevoise team had access to his public statements and to his filings and testimony in a prior arbitration proceeding. The club also produced thousands of pages of documents, including emails, texts, internal memos and presentation decks as well as other material relating to club operations and the filings and testimony in the arbitration proceeding between the club and Coach Jackson.”
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 that he was set up to fail.
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Jackson was 3-36-1 overall before being fired during the 2018 season. Cleveland was 1-15 in 2016 and 0-16 in 2017.
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.”
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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.”