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Council urges FirstEnergy to drop sponsorship of Cleveland Browns stadium

Cleveland City Council has passed a resolution that calls for FirstEnergy to relinquish naming rights to the home of NFL team the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns’ home has been known as FirstEnergy Stadium since 2013 but the council has called for the company’s name to be dropped from the official title of the city-owned venue.

The council has passed the resolution due to FirstEnergy’s role in a bribery scheme which is currently under investigation. Last summer, FirstEnergy announced that it had entered into an agreement with the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio to resolve a previously disclosed investigation.

FirstEnergy agreed to pay a penalty of $230m (£184m/€216m) and agreed to the government’s filing of a single charge of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. The company allegedly manipulated the passage of House Bill 6 in 2019.

Brian Kazy, a councilperson for Cleveland’s Ward 16, has claimed that the scandal has tarnished FirstEnergy’s name and questioned whether the company’s sponsorship of the stadium should continue.

In a statement reported by the News 5 Cleveland website, FirstEnergy said in response to the resolution: “FirstEnergy is extremely proud of our longstanding commitment to community involvement through philanthropic giving, employee volunteerism and sponsoring local events and organisations.

“It’s disappointing that the resolution overlooks the important community benefits afforded by our partnership with the Cleveland Browns, which represents so much more than just a name on the stadium.”

In March, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said that they were exploring options to upgrade FirstEnergy Stadium or develop a new stadium in Cleveland. The Haslams said these options will depend on how the city progresses with plans to renovate its lakefront area, the site of FirstEnergy Stadium which opened in September 1999.

Image: JonRidinger/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size