ESPN describes Modell as "one of the most influential owners in the history of the NFL," writing that "Modell helped mold the foundation of the league."
An advertising and television executive prior to buying the Browns, Modell served as Chairman of the NFL’s Television Committee for 31 years, from 1962 to 1993. He negotiated TV deals worth billions of dollars to the NFL, according to the New York Times. This included working with ABC Television Network to create Monday Night Football and helping to create NFL Films.
Modell was also an ardent supporter of football's expansion. He pushed for new games (including pre-season games and Thanksgiving Day matches), assisted with the 1970 merger of the American Football League and the National Football League, and led league expansion (the Browns moved to Baltimore as an expansion team), according to ESPN.
Fellow owners respected Modell immensely, according to a statement from the Baltimore Ravens. From 1969 through 1969, he served as the only elected NFL president in league history, serving in that capacity in 1967-69. As Chairman of the Owners' Labor Committee in 1968, Modell helped negotiate NFL’s first collective bargaining agreement with players.
Despite his prowess as a 43-year team owner and promoter of football, Modell was vilified by Ohio fans, some of whom never forgave him for relocating the Browns to Baltimore.
That's why, despite his more-than-worthy credentials, Modell has not yet been enshrined in Canton, according to Sports Illustrated. Modell has been nominated repeatedly for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but has yet to be elected. JewishSportsCollectibles.com hopes this egregious oversight will be rectified posthumously.
Off the field, Modell was a generous philanthropist, according to the Baltimore Sun. He gave millions of dollars to a variety of causes, including Jewish and Catholic religious organizations, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a variety of arts and cultural groups.
Jewish football collectors can honor Modell's enormous legacy with a variety of collectibles.
Beckett.com lists several football cards for Modell. These include 1974 and 1984 Browns team issues, a 1995 Sports Illustrated card, and a 2009 Sportskings Series C "Owner's Box" cut signature card (#TOB-AM).
The last card is particularly intriguing. Sportskings are a modern revival of the 1930s cards by the same name. The vintage design is colorful and eye catching. A Sportskings company spokesperson tells JewishSportsCollectibles.com that the cut signature inserts were issued as one-of-a-kind, single printing cards, making this the rarest of Modell memorabilia.eBay is awash in auctions featuring Art Modell memorabilia.
Listings include Browns and Ravens autographed footballs and mini-helmets, team signed items featuring Modell's autograph, along with a variety of signed photos, business cards and art prints.Sports Illustrated. The magazine details Modell's battle with Cleveland to relocated the Browns to Baltimore. The image is a unflattering caricature of Modell, and the headline reads: "Art Modell Sucker-Punched Cleveland." The cover is not for sale on SICovers.com. Collectors can, however, purchase it on eBay and Amazon.com.
Amazon also offers numerous books about Modell, including histories of Browns and Ravens, along with biographies of Modell. Sadly, there's even a song about Modell -- Blame It On Art Modell -- available for download. On a more positive note, collectors can also purchase a JSA certified Modell autographed index card on Amazon.com.
What Art Modell memorabilia do you have in your Jewish football collection? Did you ever have occasion to meet the Browns and Ravens owner? Share your thoughts on the legendary football man by commenting below.