Former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell dies at 87
Art Modell, who formerly owned the National Football League team of Baltimore Ravens, passed away on Thursday in Baltimore. He was 87 years old.
According to reports, Art Modell died at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland where he was admitted last Wednesday.
Modell, who lived in Cockeysville, Maryland, is said to have had a history of coronary issues. In a postwar era when professional football was extending its franchises across the United States and it has reached into the fantasies of millions of armchair quarterbacks, Art Modell was the hands-on owner of the Cleveland Browns from 1961 to 1995 and of the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2003.
For 31 years (from 1962 to 1993), Modell represented National Football League owners in negotiations with various television networks which produced $8.4 billion for the league, and gave fans at home a coast-to-coast succession of games. This turned Sunday afternoons, Monday nights and eventually Sunday nights into lost weekends for the most avid football fans. Known as an innovative and determined promoter, Art Modell even toyed with Friday night football.
“We made the announcement,” Modell recalled, referring to the league, “and within 72 hours Congress passed a law prohibiting Friday night games until the high school and college seasons ended.”
Art Modell also supported a series of winning ideas, such as the expansion of the National Football League into many cities; the 1970 merger of the American Football League and National Football League into competing NFL conferences; pre-season games that enticed the appetite of football fans and brought in more television money; and revenue-sharing plans that balanced risks among the owners, whom Modell referred to as his partners. He has been elected as president in 1967 to 1969 and he made negotiations for the league’s first collective bargaining agreement with the players in 1968.
Back in 1962, Art Modell started preseason doubleheaders — back-to-back exhibition games on a Saturday before the season opener. In 1970, he volunteered his Cleveland Browns for another experiment: hosting the first nationally televised Monday night football game. They beat the Jets, and another profit center was born.
For almost 35 years, Cleveland Browns idolized Art Modell. His team’s overall record was good, showered with playoff appearances. The team won only one championship, in 1964. But the games of Cleveland Browns were regularly sold out and families built traditions around them. Modell also raised money for charities and won “Pride of Cleveland” and “Super Citizen” awards, and was even elected to the boards of corporations and universities.