The National Football League lost one of its most important figures today when former Baltimore Ravens owner, Art Modell passed away of natural causes at the age of 87.
Modell owned the Cleveland Browns before moving the team to Baltimore in 1996. It wasn’t an easy move for him and something he grappled with for the rest of his life. He left the team name and colors in Cleveland and the old Browns became the Baltimore Ravens.
He was one of the first owners to be hands on; he attended team practices and was active in the daily operation of the teams he owned.
When asked about the impact Modell had on others, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said that he couldn’t express it in words, but when he read texts and emails from others, he realized what a major impact Modell had on other peoples’ lives.
Modell was aware of his legacy and believes that moving the Browns to Baltimore tarnished it:
“I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move,” he said in 1999. “The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me.”
One of his greatest successes as an owner came in 2001 when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV with a 34-7 victory over the New York Giants. The win came five years after he moved the Browns to Baltimore; the franchise went from near bankruptcy to the Vince Lombardi championship.
Model spoke to the team after the Super Bowl win and simply said:
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of this organization, the front office, the head coach, the staff, the players, the trainers, everybody. You’ve done me proud, I will never forget it.”
Modell lost a lot of money moving the team to Baltimore and after being financially strapped, he sold his majority share to Ravens’ minority owner Steve Bisciotti in 2004. Bisciotti left Modell a 1% share of the team.
Bisciotti spent millions on the team including building a training facility in Owings Mills, Maryland where he honored Modell with a huge oil painting of him above the fireplace at the entrance to the complex.
Bisciotti said of Modell:
“He was my friend, my mentor. We will miss him so much,” Bisciotti said. “… How fortunate I am to have had him teach me about the NFL.”
I am saddened by his death and 1000% grateful to him for giving me a football team to root for again. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be a part of Aerys Sports, writing and obsessing over my beloved Ravens.
Modell was a class act, he gave back to the community and he cared about his players and fans. He will be sorely missed. RIP Mr. Modell and thank you for giving Baltimore the gift of football.