I can't help but find this whole Pilot Flying J story so compelling. I mean, there's the casual assholishness of "allegedly" defrauding your customers (I'm not sure how long we have to keep using "allegedly" when people are pleading guilty to it left and right), and the way the people at Pilot caught on the Feds' recordings seemed to take a kind of pleasure in their fraudulent activities. And I admit, I think I understand that — how good it can feel to have power and money and to be taking advantage of people who, even if they realize it, can't really do anything about it.
And I also find the Haslam side of it really compelling — this son is handed the reins of the family business, and his sole job, really, is just not to fuck it up so bad that it ruins the family name. And here we all are, speculating whether it would be worse if Jimmy Haslam did know about this stuff or if he didn't. Either way, the name Haslam becomes synonymous with "cheating your customers" or "not very bright." That's got to sting. That Jimmy was worried about how his father would take the news just hits me right in the gut.
Just in terms of all the complicated human things going on, this story is fascinating. But the NFL piece of the puzzle is especially so. Here in Tennessee, the Haslams still have a lot of good will to burn through, but who is Jimmy Haslam to the NFL? The one owner with a huge public federal investigation seemingly focused on him.
On Monday, at the end of a long story about all the things Haslam is doing to make the Browns more awesome, ESPN Cleveland reported:
At the same time, Haslam “has been working hand-in-glove” with the NFL as the investigation of his company ensues, according to a separate league source.
“He is taking direction and he is taking advice (from the NFL),” said the source. “They even have a plan in place in the event there is an indictment (of Haslam) to maintain ownership of the Browns during the legal process.”
Asked about the existence of such a contingency plan, Haslam said, “I don’t want to answer any legal questions.”
So, while Haslam is still saying he doesn't think he'll be indicted, the NFL isn't leaving things to chance. There's a plan in place.
If I were being investigated and I thought there were any chance I was going to be indicted for something, I'd be a zombie moving between my bed and my couch, my depression interrupted only by calls to and from my lawyer.
But Haslam is carrying on. He's making media appearances. He's making things happen in the Browns' front office. I kind of admire that — the ability to just keep on with life, even with this terrible cloud hanging over your head.