The team and FirstEnergy Corp. have reached an “amicable decision” to end their naming rights agreement for the downtown FirstEnergy Stadium, according to a Tuesday news release. The terms and conditions of the agreement were not disclosed.
The stadium was named FirstEnergy Stadium in 2013.
“Together with the Browns, we have worked to enrich our communities while increasing awareness of FirstEnergy as an energy leader. Since we signed this agreement ten years ago, our priorities have shifted as the company evolved from a competitive energy supplier to a regulated utility, and as a result, our corporate initiatives must also evolve,” John Somerhalder, FirstEnergy interim president and CEO, is quoted in the release. “Like the rest of northern Ohio, we remain passionate Browns fans and will cheer them on in upcoming seasons. We also look forward to maintaining our deep relationships with civic, arts and other organizations to bring good energy to our communities.”
City councilman Brian Kazy led a fight to have FirstEnergy removed from the stadium name.
“For years, FirstEnergy applied political pressure to attempt to restrict or destroy Cleveland Public Power and was involved in Ohio’s biggest bribery scandal, resulting in ratepayers paying nearly $1.3 billion in bailouts for the company,” he said in a Thursday statement.
Former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and former state Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges were found guilty in March of public corruption charges for the pay-to-play scheme. They each face up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors said a Householder-run dark money group took a $60 million bribe from the utility company to ensure passage of the bailout legislation House Bill 6, then funneled proceeds to support political candidates in Householder’s camp. Former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and a former FirstEnergy VP Michael Dowling were named in the investigation, but not charged.
Kazy introduced a resolution in May 2022 calling on the utility company to relinquish its naming rights. The resolution was passed with near-unanimous approval the following June.
“FirstEnergy and its corrupt reputation are not a representation of the City of Cleveland,” Kazy told the FOX 8 I-Team. “We’re glad the Browns were amicably able to reach an agreement. I’m glad we’re going back to Cleveland Browns Stadium.”
A statement issued on behalf of Cleveland City Council said: “Clevelanders own the stadium, and it is only fitting to call it by a name of which we can all be proud.”
Dave Jenkins, COO of Haslam Sports Group, said:
“We’ve had a great association with FirstEnergy for more than two decades, and we appreciate this partnership and what it has created for our team and the broader northeast Ohio community. We reached this amicable agreement that is consistent with the productive relationship we have always enjoyed, and we wish FirstEnergy success with their future initiatives. Our home stadium will return to its former name, Cleveland Browns Stadium.”