Art Modell, the man who brought the NFL back to Baltimore, died Sept. 6 at the age of 87.

“Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at four this morning,” former Ravens president David Modell said in a statement. “My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October.

“‘Poppy’ was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel and his six grandchildren. Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore. He made an important and indelible contribution to the lives of his children, grandchildren and his entire community. We will miss him.”

Baltimore had been without an NFL team from 1984-95 before Modell announced he’d be moving the Browns franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Modell tried to ease some of the sting of the move by leaving the name “Browns,” plus their colors (brown and orange) and the records of the team’s 49 years in Cleveland.

The move to Baltimore proved successful, as the newly named Ravens connected fairly quickly with the fans. Modell remained as the team’s owner until completing the sale of the franchise to current owner Steve Bisciotti in April 2004. Modell served as an owner for 43 years, starting when he bought the Browns in 1961 for $4 million.

The move to Baltimore delighted the fans of Charm City, but is probably what kept Modell out of pro football’s Hall of Fame. Many felt he deserved the honor, mostly because of his work that helped the league through the years, but some of the media that help make the choice were set against picking him because of the move.

When he was the owner, Modell’s teams won NFL titles in 1964 and 2000, the latter being when the Ravens pulled off their Super Bowl run led by one of the greatest defenses of all time.

Modell helped the NFL off the field and in the boardroom also. He was the chairman for the negotiations with the league’s first collective bargaining agreement with players in 1968. He also made a mark on the league as the NFL’s broadcast chairman.

He negotiated contracts with networks from 1962-1993, which went a long way toward changing the face of sports television and helped the league to set up NFL Films and get “Monday Night Football” started. In addition, Modell was part of the NFL-AFL Merger Committee during the late ’60s and ended a deadlock by volunteering to move the Browns to the AFC — along with the Colts and Steelers.

Modell and his wife, Patricia, who died in 2011, had two sons (John and David) and became well-known philanthropists in Baltimore area, donating millions of dollars to a number of charities.

Posted Sept. 6, 2012

Jeff Seidel

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