NFL investigating Browns after Hue Jackson’s tanking allegations

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The NFL is officially investigating the Cleveland Browns after allegations that the organization pushed former head coach Hue Jackson to purposely lose games, according to Sports Illustrated’s Gary Gramling and Connor Orr.

The league hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation.

“The review is ongoing and is expected to conclude soon,” the league said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. No other timeline or details were given.

Jackson spoke out in February, shortly after former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination throughout the league and its hiring processes, among other things. As part of that lawsuit, Flores alleged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pushed him to lose games on purpose in 2019, and even offered him $100,000 per game to do so.

Jackson then came forward and said he was incentivized to lose with the Browns, who he coached from 2016-18. He went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the Browns, and was fired eight games into his third season.

Jackson said there was a “four-year plan” that incentivized losing in the first two seasons, and that bonus money was available if certain goals were hit. He said he wasn’t offered money like Flores alleged he was, but that the situations are similar.

“I told [owner Jimmy Haslam] that what he was doing was very destructive, to not do this because it's going to hurt my career and every other coach that worked with me and every player on the team,” Jackson said in February. “And I told him that it would hurt every Black coach that would follow me. And I have the documents to prove this."

Jackson’s claims were backed up by one of his former players.

“There’s no way we were trying to win. It was very obvious,” Jason McCourty said of the 2017 season, where they didn’t win a game. “That is no surprise to anyone. You don’t need me to corroborate the story and say, ‘Oh yeah, we were tanking. We were trying to lose.’ Duh.”

Head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns
Hue Jackson went just 1-31 in his first two seasons leading the Browns, and then was fired midway through his third year. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Jackson: Why open an investigation now?

Jackson told Sports Illustrated that he tried to push for an investigation earlier, and that he’s confused why it took so long for the NFL to take action.

“Two years ago I tried to do this the right way, through the bylaws and constitution of the National Football League, to ask them to investigate the Cleveland Browns for all the allegations that I’ve made,” Jackson told Sports Illustrated. “So why open an investigation now?”

The Browns have denied the allegations against them, and said they are cooperating with the investigation.

“Even though Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made, it was important to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations,” the Browns said, via Sports Illustrated. “We welcomed an investigation and we are confident the results will show, as we’ve previously stated, that these allegations are categorically false."

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