CLAIM

A lawyer received a caustic response after complaining to the Cleveland Browns about fans' throwing paper airplanes during the team's home NFL games.

TRUE

RATING

TRUE

ORIGIN

Similar to a previous item involving Yankee great Mickey Mantle, in late 2010 another piece of crude sports-related correspondence surfaced on the Internet, prompting questions about whether scanned images of letters purportedly exchanged between an attorney and the Cleveland Browns football team were genuine.

The first missive, dated 18 November 1974 and addressed to the Cleveland Browns, was signed by Dale O. Cox of the Akron law firm Roetzel & Andress, a season ticket holder who complained about the potential for injury among spectators due to the practice of Browns fans’ throwing paper airplanes during games at Cleveland Stadium:


Three days later, Browns general counsel James N. Bailey responded with a terse, dismissive (and somewhat vulgar) reply:

This correspondence is in fact real, as Michael Heaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer determined by tracking down both of the principals in late 2010, who vouched for its authenticity. Browns general counsel James Bailey, then 66 and living in San Diego, told Heaton that:

It’s surprising. I’ve gotten lots of calls from old friends who have seen the letter on the Internet.

I was all of 28 years old when I wrote that letter. I should have been more cautious. I’m just glad my mother’s not around to see that letter.

After I wrote it, I heard about it right away from [Browns owner] Art Modell. He said something like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ He was not a guy lacking passion.

Dale Cox, formerly of the Roetzel & Andress law firm, who in 2010 was 72 with a private practice in Orofino, Idaho, also recalled for Heaton his memories of the exchange:

I’m still a Browns season-ticket holder. I found out that Bailey and I both went to the University of Michigan Law School.

No [I wasn’t angry with his response]. I thought it was pretty cool. I’ve used that letter a couple times myself since.