(Knoxville, TN) - Did the NFL make a mistake?
Accoring to a story in USA TODAY, league leaders are worried that approving Haslam as the Browns owner may end up reflecting poorly on the NFL.
"The league is very, very concerned," a person with key business dealings with the NFL and multiple owners told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
You'd think the NFL might have gained a whiff that this was coming while vetting the billionaire who heads one of the nation's largest family-owned businesses. The feds launched their investigation in May 2011.
"The NFL was completely blind-sided by this," the business associate said. "The NFL found out when the records were seized. That's not a good time to find out."
At a short news conference Friday, Haslam said he hasn't done anything wrong and isn't stepping aside. Haslam says the company needs steady management now more than ever.
Haslam spoke to reporters in Knoxville a day after a federal court unsealed an FBI affidavit in an ongoing investigation of customer rebate fraud at Pilot Flying J.
Haslam plans to make another statement this afternoon. "Due to the ongoing investigation, Haslam will not take questions, but his statement about the actions the company plans to take is significant and should help to answer the media’s questions," a media advisory said.
Newsradio WTAM 1100 plans to air the news conference live.
The pilot headquarters was raided Monday by federal agents after employees told the FBI and said in secretly recorded conversations that Haslam knew his sales staff was improperly cutting rebates to pilot's diesel fuel customers.
The company is a chain of truck stops the Haslam family owns. No charges have been filed.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit was filed Saturday in Knox County, Tenn. circuit court against Pilot Flying J relating to those rebate funds.
FOX 8 News reports that Atlantic Coast Carriers and Wooten Enterprises president and CEO Olin Wooten claims the company did not receive rebates for a number of years.
“As the owner of the Browns, one would have hoped that Haslam’s company would treat those upon whom he relied for success as he bargained to do,” said Mark Tate, the attorney representing Wooten Enterprises.
On Sunday, Tate released a statement to Fox 8 News that said, “Tate Law Group is confident that not only are the facts and the law in our favor but so is the public sentiment. We are pleased and privileged to represent solid companies like Atlantic and others like it in these cases against Haslam and his company in this litigation. We expect to prevail.”
Atlantic Coast Carriers is a trucking company in Hazlehurst, Georgia.
Haslam is expected to be in Cleveland this week to prepare for Thursday's NHL Draft.
Get breaking news sent to your mobile phone. Text "news" to 21095.
(Copyright © 2013 by Clear Channel, all rights reserved. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.)