Just moments after introducing new Browns General Manager John Dorsey on Friday, owner Jimmy Haslam answered questions about Mark Hazelwood, the man who once ran his company, Pilot Flying J.
Hazelwood and three ex-employees of Pilot have been at the center of a federal fraud conspiracy case in which trucking companies were lured to switch their business to Pilot Flying J with promises of big discounts that sales executives never intended to pay.
On Thursday, a judge in the case released a bombshell, sharing a mole-made secret recording of Hazelwood in which allegedly racist comments could be heard.
U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier describes the comments from Hazelwood as “vile, despicable, inflammatory racial epithets” that disparaged “the entire population of Cleveland, Ohio,” Oakland, Calif., and the Browns.
When asked about the comments of Hazelwood on Friday, Haslam described the remarks as “intolerable.”
“That’s not how we act and do things,” he said.
It was a rare moment for Haslam, who rarely speaks about the ongoing case.
He was quick to point out that none of the employees present in the recordings still work for him, although the company continues to finance their defense.
“Until those employees plead guilty or are found guilty, the company pays for their legal expenses,” Haslam added. "That will continue.”
Collier indicated Hazelwood’s remarks were made in the presence of a team of Pilot Flying J sales executives who have since confessed defrauding trucking companies of promised discounts on diesel fuel.
“Mr. Hazelwood’s utterances are beyond the pale,” Collier said. “Several subordinates of Mr. Hazelwood were present. Mr. Hazelwood was in a position of authority over them.”
The case is currently on break until January. Collier has said he believes the jury should hear the recordings when the trial resumes.
Jamie Satterfield, USA TODAY Network-Tennessee contributed to this story