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NEW ORLEANS (CBS / AP) — An oddity for this Super Bowl has both teams’ former owners as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The late Art Modell, who owned the Cleveland Browns and then moved them to Baltimore to become the Ravens, and Ed DeBartolo Jr., of the San Francisco 49ers, could enter the hall on Saturday. They are among 15 modern-day finalists, of which as many as five can be elected.
Modell bought the Browns in 1961 and took them to Baltimore in 1996. He was president of the NFL under then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle from 1967-69 and played an instrumental role in negotiating television contracts for the league. Modell contributed to the creation of Monday night football, too.
“That is always one of those situations that you really try to stay out of, because you don’t know how they vote,” Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis said. “You can only tell them about the man who I knew myself: a true legend in his own way, a real visionary who changed thousands and thousands of lives. For the impact he’s had on this business and what he’s done for so many in this business, for me – I am a little biased – I would say, `Why wouldn’t he be in the Hall of Fame?’”
DeBartolo purchased the 49ers in 1977. Soon, they were winning championships: five Super Bowls in as many tries.
During DeBartolo’s tenure, the team made 16 playoff appearances, won 13 division titles and played in 10 conference championship games.
But he also was suspended the 1999 season by the NFL after being found guilty of failing to report a bribe by a government official, a felony. He divested ownership of the 49ers to family members.
“I’m hoping Eddie gets into the hall because any time you can accomplish winning five Super Bowls and what he brought to the game of football, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Jerry Rice, the most accomplished receiver in NFL history and a HOF enshrinee. “I think this society’s supposed to be about forgiveness and stuff like that. It’s time for Eddie DeBartolo to get into the hall.”
(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco.