CLEVELAND — Two weeks after it was first introduced, Cleveland City Council voted to approve an emergency resolution calling for FirstEnergy Corporation to be removed as the naming rights sponsor of Cleveland Browns' home stadium.
The resolution, which was introduced by Councilman Brian Kazy last month, passed by a 16-1 vote during Monday's council meeting. The approved resolution doesn't require FirstEnergy to be removed from the name of the Browns' publicly-owned stadium, but it would serve as an official statement against the Akron-based company following its role in the House Bill 6 scandal, in which FirstEnergy is accused of a $60 million bribery scheme.
"Simply, I don’t believe that the municipally-owned stadium that the Cleveland Browns play in should bear the name of this tainted company. The sign, seen as people enter Cleveland, gives the impression that they represent the city. This is false," Kazy wrote in a release announcing his resolution last month.
Initially opened as Cleveland Browns Stadium in 1999, FirstEnergy purchased the naming rights to the stadium in 2013 with a 17-year, $102 million deal.
FirstEnergy provided a statement to 3News following the passage of the Cleveland City Council resolution:
"FirstEnergy is extremely proud of our longstanding commitment to community involvement through philanthropic giving, employee volunteerism and sponsoring local events and organizations. It’s disappointing that the resolution overlooks the important community benefits afforded by our partnership with the Cleveland Browns, which represents so much more than just a name on the stadium.
FirstEnergy leverages all of our sponsorships to do good in the communities we serve. Our great community work with the Browns has helped disadvantaged areas create opportunities for youth. For example, we’ve installed lighting at Bump Taylor Field in Glenville and Dwayne Browder Field on Cleveland’s east side to make “Friday Night Lights” possible for high school athletes. We’ve also provided new uniforms for the Glenville and John Adams football teams.
Through sponsorships like we have with the Browns, we look forward to continuing to enrich our communities for years to come."
"For them (FirstEnergy) to keep that name, and for us to allow them to keep that name on that building, is an absolute insult to the city of Cleveland and the taxpayers. I don't take kindly to people who bribe public officials," said Councilman Michael Polensek after the vote. "If they had any decency, they would take that name off the building."
In a 2021 agreement with the Justice Department, FirstEnergy agreed to pay a $230 million penalty after admitting it funneled $60 million into a nonprofit secretly controlled by former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to pass House Bill 6. HB6 bailed out the Perry and Davis Besse nuclear power plants and was worth an estimated $1.3 billion to FirstEnergy. Householder, four associates and a dark money group were indicted on racketeering charges.
Householder has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial in federal court.
"The resolution I am sponsoring is self-explanatory," Kazy said. "First Energy spent nearly $61 million to get Ohio HB 6 passed to secure a $1.3 billion dollar bailout by ratepayers for its nuclear power plants. A federal investigation led to felony charges in connection to the bribery scheme to influence state legislators to pass the legislation."
You can read the resolution below:
You can watch Monday's Cleveland City Council meeting in the player below: