Cleveland councilman calls for FirstEnergy to drop name from Browns stadium
The chair of Cleveland City Council’s public utilities committee wants FirstEnergy to take its name off the home of the Cleveland Browns.
Brian Kazy, who represents Ward 16, is sponsoring a resolution urging the utility to give up its naming rights in light of the bribery allegations lodged against the company by federal prosecutors in 2020.
“This has nothing to do with the everyday, 9-to-5 workers of FirstEnergy,” Kazy told Ideastream Public Media. “This has everything to do with the corruption and the scandal that occurred at the top of FirstEnergy.”
The appearance of the company’s name on the side of the football stadium “kind of gives the impression that we’re OK” with FirstEnergy’s actions, he said. The legislation will be introduced at council's Monday night meeting.
"FirstEnergy has a longstanding commitment to supporting communities through sponsorship of civic, athletic and arts organizations," company spokeswoman Jennifer Young wrote in an email to Ideastream. "We have taken swift action to address events that have occurred in recent years and to ensure a culture of strong ethics, integrity and accountability at the company. We look forward to continuing as a valued partner with all the communities in which we live and work."
Akron-based FirstEnergy fired its CEO in the wake of the investigation, and last year, the company agreed to pay $230 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.
As part of the agreement, FirstEnergy admitted to paying millions of dollars to secure the passage of House Bill 6, which bailed out two nuclear power plants owned by a then-subsidiary of the company.
Ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, who was also charged in the bribery investigation, has pleaded not guilty. A jury is expected to begin hearing arguments in the trial in early 2023.
The Browns sold stadium naming rights to FirstEnergy in January 2013, months after Jimmy Haslam acquired the team. The company agreed to pay the team $102 million over 17 years, the Plain Dealer reported at the time, citing an unnamed league source.
The city of Cleveland owns the stadium, paying for major repairs through the proceeds of a countywide tax on alcohol and cigarettes renewed by voters in 2014. In 2013, the city agreed to pay $2 million annually for 15 years to finance a major renovation at the facility.
Despite its name, FirstEnergy Stadium draws electricity from city-owned utility Cleveland Public Power.